Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Government faces steep hurdles from a construction skills shortage and rising prices for building materials after setting aside a record €5.5 billion for housing in the budget, industry participants have warned.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said the budget measures “will ensure” the Government can meet ambitious targets to boost the construction of new homes.

But people involved in priority social housing projects and private developments warned of increasing strain in the sector as public investment ramps up.

Speaking to The Irish Times, one local authority chief said: “The acute stresses and strains at the moment would relate to supply of skilled labour and also material-price increases.”

Such remarks follow data showing that the annual rate of inflation for construction tender prices reached 8.3 per cent in the 12 months to June, almost double pre-Covid levels.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland reported “exceptional increases” in the cost of steel, timber and insulation products, citing supply chain issues and intense international competition for materials.

After disruption to building work during coronavirus lockdowns, the industry now suffers from growing shortage of skilled labour after the resumption of delayed project and the commencement of new developments.

Barry Kelly, director of specialist construction recruiter ICDS Group, told The Irish Times that he has in excess of 100 vacancies for quantity surveyors, project managers, estimators, bid mangers architectural role and structural design.

“Salaries are increasing but the skillset isn’t … The industry and the country need to bring people in from overseas, Europeans and non-Europeans,” said Mr Kelly.

James Benson, director of the Irish House Builders Association, which represents hundreds of companies, told The Irish Times the skill shortage was evident at “all levels” of the sector.

“The committed funding is vital for both investment and attracting skilled labour but to realise the ambitions of [the Government’s] Housing for All [plan] we need to see greater efficiencies in the system; and that’s zoning, infrastructure and planning,” he said.

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