The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has called on the government to use Budget 2020 to address serious social issues including the ongoing housing crisis, Ireland’s response to climate change and the emerging challenges of a growing and ageing population.
In addition, the institute has identified opportunities for the budget to support the development of a quality built environment through improved public procurement, as well as investment and support for design professionals.
The RIAI submission contains a number of recommendations for inclusion in Budget 2020 across three key policy areas:
1.) Supporting the role of the built environment in tackling climate change. State support, through ‘green mortgages’ or preferential Local Property Tax rates should be examined to encourage the retrofitting of the domestic residential property stock.
In addition, the budget should introduce meaningful incentives and penalties to promote balanced regional development supporting the sustainable growth of Ireland’s regional cities and compact and sustainable urban development within existing city boundaries.
2.) Delivery of high-quality housing. The RIAI has identified the unlocking potential brownfield development sites and the construction of quality homes that match population lifecycles as key to the delivery of high-quality housing.
A full audit should be undertaken of land which is owned or rented by public bodies and which could be better used as land for public housing, or which could be sold for private development with a significant public housing element.
Study of existing and required infrastructure
The development of each land bank will require an informed study of existing and required infrastructure, the present condition of the site and a well-developed design strategy to ensure that the homes, infrastructure and public realm which are developed are suitable for the people who will live there.
Greater government focus is needed to promote housing specifically developed for older people within mixed communities.
Government should promote the availability of bridging finance or other mortgage solutions for those over the age of retirement who wish to trade down.
A review of pension policy is required to understand how to structure and fund pensions to allow pensioners who are tenants or mortgage holders to continue to pay for their accommodation.
3.) Supporting quality design through the use of architects. The institute is calling for a cut in the current VAT rate of 23 per cent on professional services of architects to support home owners to obtain the correct professional advice in constructing or refitting homes.
With the current skills shortage in the profession, the RIAI recommends that the ‘critical skills occupation’ work permit scheme should be extended to suitably qualified architects and architectural technologists, in line with other categories of construction professionals.