‘Everything My Department Does Is Open And Transparent’

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A table in Monday’s Irish Times; Minister for Housing Simon Coveney

You may recall how, last Sunday morning, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer Lorcan Sirr tweeted that only 2,076 new houses were built in 2016 compared to the official figure of 14,932.

He also tweeted a table detailing the number of new house completions, excluding one-off houses, built in each county last year based on figures confirmed by the Building Control Management System. These state just 848 such properties were built as opposed to the Department of Housing’s figure of 8,729.

An article with the same figure, and more, obtained under Freedom of Information, appeared in The Irish Times on Monday. This article also had a table with the same information as Mr Sirr’s table.

The claims followed similar concerns about the department’s housing figures previously raised by architect Maoilíosa Reynolds in an article in The Sunday Business Post two Sundays ago.

Further to this…

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has written the following letter to The Irish Times

The article on homes built in 2016 demonstrates the dangers of obtaining and interpreting data without proper context or testing its validity.

The table accompanying the article is inaccurate; the published figure of 848 units presented as the total output of estate houses and apartments built in 2016 is in fact the number of Certificates of Compliance on Completion submitted to the Building Control Management System (BCMS) for all works, not just residential construction, in the first quarter of 2017.

I have said repeatedly that the Building Control Management System was designed for compliance for building control purposes. It was not designed for gathering statistics and the published article is a perfect example of how statistics can be misrepresented and inaccurately presented.

There are several reasons why the BCMS data does not currently record and reflect housing completions, although the Department Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government is actively exploring its potential in this regard. Some of these reasons include the fact that Certificates of Compliance on Completion are required for certain works that submitted a commencement notice on or after March 1st, 2014. Developments commenced before that date, including many developments started but not finished during the downturn may still be under construction.

Certificates of Compliance on Completion are not required for one-off houses that have chosen to opt out of the statutory certification process since September 1st, 2015.

A single Certificates of Compliance on Completion may cover multiple buildings or works, this is in order to reduce the administrative burden and cost for industry, so simply counting certificates can underestimate total units constructed.

The requirement for these Certificates of Compliance on Completion is relatively new, at a time when construction activity has been relatively low, with the result that the process and issuing of Certificates of Compliance on Completion is only becoming established.

The recording and reporting of statistics on housing completions is a complex area. We have several different statistics from various reputable sources that measures different issues as well as many different views in relation to which statistics we should use.

We have, however, used ESB connections as an overall proxy for housing completions and have done so since the 1970s, so it is, and will continue to be, an important long-term comparator, and an important indicator of trends in the number of new homes being made available. It is important to note that the ESB figures are by no means the only dataset we use.

We have, for example, detailed information on residential construction activity from local authorities – at the end of 2016, the four Dublin local authorities reported 144 active construction sites, encompassing the construction of some 5,200 new dwellings.

Suggestions that I am trying to mask the completion figures are nonsense. Everything my department does is open and transparent and the one thing that is apparent from all key statistical sources (eg planning permissions, commencements, completions) is that housing supply activity is increasing, underpinning that Rebuilding Ireland, and its core objective of increasing housing supply, is beginning to have a positive impact.

It has been a slow and complex process to realise the upswing in housing supply and the Government will continue to focus on actions and initiatives to increase supply across all tenures during 2017 and beyond.

Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Housing,
Planning, Community & Local Government,
Custom House,
Dublin 1.

Anyone?

How many new homes were built last year? (Irish Times letters page)

Previously: ‘When Gardaí manipulate figures, there are inquiries’

‘If You Want To Solve A Problem…’

13 thoughts on “‘Everything My Department Does Is Open And Transparent’

  1. Kennysmells

    Sure Simon just like when you forgot you were a landlord last year when it came to declaring assets

  2. dav

    Bravo Coveney, keep fighting for water privatisation while failing to help the homeless of the country, what a credit to your party you truly are!

  3. Eoin

    Everything his department does works towards stoking the next property bubble, as it’s the only way to make a quick and substantial killing around here.

  4. TheDude

    Does this mean that cowboy developers/builders can just opt out?
    From BCMS
    ‘In opting out of the requirements for statutory certification of S.I. 9 of 2014, you are making the decision to not have a Design Certifier certify the design of the building, and you are making the decision to not have an Assigned Certifier inspect and oversee the works. In addition, you will not be able to register a Certificate of Compliance on Completion with your Local Authority. ‘

    1. GiggidyGoo

      ” In addition, you will not be able to register a Certificate of Compliance on Completion with your Local Authority.”
      Does LPT occur then?

    2. Barry the Hatchet

      As far as I know, only the owner of a single dwelling on single unit development, or an extension to a dwelling, can opt out of the requirement. So a developer building say a block of apartments or a housing estate would not be able to opt out.

      1. ivan

        yup, the plan was initially that anybody building a dwelling or an extension had to sign up for the certification which left a situation where, if you were building on a spare room onto your house, there was a similar level of regulation required than if you were building an apartment block; in other words, you were (unless the extension was rather small) bound by the same rules. Obviously the manpower to do an apartment block would be more, but the level of reguilation was the same. A knock on effect of this was that the cost of building an extension would go up dramatically. Another effect was, of course, that the builder doing the extension would have to be on the Department’s “system” etc, so no *cough*cash*cough* jobs either.

        Then they rowed back on that, and rowed back on the obligation to have this for one-off houses, so now I suppose, the cost of building a one off house has come down, or at least it might be a more appealing option because the builder doesn’t have to pass on the cost of compliance to the occupier.

        I am not convinced that rolling back the requirements in this manner was a good idea. Towns are dying on their ar*es as they are – further incentive to live in a one off mightn’t help change this.

  5. realPolithicks

    “The recording and reporting of statistics on housing completions is a complex area”

    It shouldn’t be, but it will be if the you don’t want people to know the accurate numbers.

  6. fulladapipes

    See this quote?: “I have said repeatedly that the Building Control Management System was designed for compliance for building control purposes. It was not designed for gathering statistics and the published article is a perfect example of how statistics can be misrepresented and inaccurately presented.”

    Well, guess what his Department base the PR for their housebuilding statistics on? Yep, the BCMS.

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