Minister O’Brien confirms shutdown in construction activity

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has confirmed a shutdown in construction activity from 6pm on Friday 8th January as part of the national effort to halt the spread of COVID-19. The situation will be reviewed on January 31st.

Minister O’Brien said the decision was necessary so as to try to bring the virus under control and that only a very limited amount of essential sites and a small number of designated social housing construction projects which are due for completion within a 6-8 week period would continue during this time. Cabinet also agreed that the construction and operation of water, wastewater and gas infrastructure and related services remain essential. The planning system will continue to operate subject to appropriate safety protocols and services operating online where feasible.

Commenting he said, “I have spoken with stakeholders today and will continue to engage with them. The construction sector showed great agility in adapting so swiftly to public health measures and social distancing requirements. Over the past six months I have visited sites which had strict protocols in place for the safety of all their staff.

“It’s clear that these measures have worked with no evidence the construction sector has been a driver of infections. The number of associated outbreaks representing 0.6% of all outbreaks since August.

“However, the current trajectory of the virus is such that a shutdown in construction is necessary as part of the wider national effort to contain the pandemic. There are approximately 200,000 direct and indirect construction sector workers across the country and we are now asking the vast majority of them to stay at home.

“This will undoubtedly have an impact on our housing delivery targets for 2021, however, the Government and my Department will do whatever is necessary to make up as much ground as possible as restrictions ease and people get back to work. Ultimately, the health and safety of workers and wider society is the top priority.

The Minister reiterated that the moratorium on evictions would remain in place in line with the 5km restriction on people’s movements. He also encouraged people to avail of the Community Call Fora which remain in place across the country saying, “The Community Call Fora all across the country stand ready to help vulnerable members of our communities with collections and delivers, meals on wheels and other essential services. I’d like to thank Local Authorities and volunteers for providing this vital service,” he concluded.

Construction be closed with effect from 6pm Friday 8th January except for the construction or development of:

  • essential health and related projects including those relevant to preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of COVID-19
  • A limited number of social housing projects, including voids, designated as essential sites by Local Authorities based on set criteria (projects due to be completed in the next six to eight weeks)
  • housing adaptation grants where the homeowner is agreeable to adaptions being undertaken in their home
  • repair, maintenance and construction of critical transport and utility infrastructure
  • education facilities sites designated as essential by Department of Education
  • supply and delivery of essential or emergency maintenance and repair services to businesses and places of residence (including electrical, gas, plumbing, glazing and roofing services) on an emergency call-out basis
  • certain large construction projects in the exporting / FDI sector based on set criteria
  • In relation to private homes that are practically complete and scheduled for habitation by 31 January 2021, including where snagging, and essential remediation work, such as pyrite works is nearing completion, works should continue to enable homeowners access their homes. Heating, water, broadband and electricity installation should also continue to enable homes be occupied.
  • Existing tenancy protections mean that a tenant cannot be evicted from their home during the period of the 5km travel restrictions. To enable a limited functioning of the housing and residential tenancy market during this time it has also been agreed that online viewings will be the default approach to viewing property for rental or sale, with a physical viewing only permissible at the point where a tenancy agreement is being entered into or where a contract for sale has been drawn up.  This approach balances the need to avoid social interaction with the need to provide a pathway to tenancy and home ownership for those who need it.