Politics

Builders to be able to use extended hours to ramp up housing output


Builders will be able to use extended hours of operation in order to ramp up housing production, under plans being considered by the Government in light of the Ukraine and housing crises.

The measure is among plans to be discussed as part of an update for Cabinet from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien. However, it is unlikely to be fully signed off at Tuesday’s meeting, sources indicated.

Currently, local authorities restrict building operation in some areas outside of specific times, which can also be limited by conditions of planning permission.

With extreme pressure coming on the State’s systems to receive refugees from Ukraine, the Cabinet will on Tuesday consider two memos – one on the housing situation and a separate update brought by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Mr O’Brien will tell Cabinet that some 100 buildings of more than 500 included in an initial trawl of potential venues indicate they could be converted into use as housing for refugees within three months – accounting for between 3,000 and 4,500 beds.

He will also detail an expanded ‘voids’ programme, which aims to take vacant social homes back on to public housing lists, as well as outlining how emergency powers could be used to grant or activate planning permissions.

Also at Cabinet, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will highlight the importance of achieving value for money in the humanitarian programme for Ukrainian refugees. He will say that some €3 billion has been earmarked for the response next year.

Separately, the Government has also been given a proposal by property development company Hines that could see hundreds of Ukrainian refugees housed on vacant serviced lands near the Liffey Valley shopping centre.

The company said it was seeking to build mixed-use developments at the land, but as this would take several years was willing to make “some of this serviced site immediately available for temporary housing as an interim measure”. It is thought some 150 units could be accommodated on the lands.

More than 25,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Ireland in the last two months. Arrivals dipped over the weekend, to a recent low of about 50 on Sunday, it is thought.

Safe passage

It comes as Kyiv has urged United Nations secretary-general António Guterres to broker and guarantee safe passage for besieged civilians out of the ruined city of Mariupol when he meets Russian president Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss the war in Ukraine.

Russian missiles struck five railway stations and other targets around Ukraine on Monday, hours after the US secretaries of state and defence visited the country for talks with its president, Volodymr Zelenskiy, and vowed to help Kyiv defeat the Kremlin’s forces.

Russia said it was offering civilians a “humanitarian corridor” on Monday to leave the vast Azovstal metalworks in Mariupol, where perhaps 1,000 city residents are believed to have taken refuge with the last Ukrainian troops .

Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said there could be no evacuation without safety guarantees, however, and called on UN and Red Cross staff to be part of a “humanitarian convoy” out of Mariupol, which has been devastated by Russian bombing.

Russian rockets hit parts of Ukraine’s rail network – a key conduit for arms deliveries – after US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin said following a visit to Kyiv that Washington would “push as hard as we can as quickly as we can to get [the Ukrainians] what they need”.




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