The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland has called upon the Government to use Budget 2020 to address serious social issues including the on-going 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.

Key Recommendations
The RIAI submission contains a number of recommendations for inclusion in Budget 2020 across three key policy areas:
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.

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. 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.
Supporting quality design through the use of architects

The Institute is asking the Minister for Finance to reduce the current VAT rate of 23% 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.

Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO, said: “The RIAI believes that it is critical to make decisions now that deliver quality homes, buildings and infrastructure to support our demographic needs and economy. It is essential that public funds are used effectively and of particular concern to the RIAI, its members and those working in the built environment is the way in which large public capital projects are designed, tendered and delivered. The RIAI has made a detailed submission to government – Achieving Quality Through Smart Procurement – on how to embed quality into the design and delivery of publicly funded capital projects. Better public procurement of buildings and infrastructure can be achieved by promoting smart investment, better scheduling of public projects and investment in architectural services at local authority level so that there are appropriate skills to plan and design future quality development.”

Denise Maguire         
Editor  of  Irish Construction Industry Magazine