While the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the Government mandated shut down of many sectors of the Irish economy, certain sectors and services have been deemed essential under the new public health regulations issued as part of the State's effort to tackle the spread of COVID-19. Here, partner and head of our Housing team, Fidelma McManus, examines what this means for social housing construction.
Social Housing Projects - some are deemed essential
The ramifications of the health and economic crisis resulting from the spread of COVID-19 are clearly profound and complex. Alongside the primary imperative of saving lives, there is also a requirement to protect those most vulnerable and minimise the negative societal impact. The challenge of self-isolation or cocooning for some is far greater than for others.
In its list of essential service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of the Taoiseach stated the following for the construction sector:
"All contractors contracted by Government Departments or Public Bodies will be advised as to whether a project is deemed essential or not."
But what does this mean in practice with regards to vital social housing projects, and what is the process for deeming a project essential?
The Housing Agency is now co-ordinating reviews of existing construction projects, to assess whether they should be deemed as essential. Following applications from Local Authorities, the Housing Delivery Co-ordination Office assesses the information supplied and then makes a recommendation to the Housing Agency as to whether a project is essential or not, within the meaning of Schedule 2 paragraph 5(a) of the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A -Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) Regulations 2020.
The criteria being used to designate a project as essential, as set out by the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government, are as follows:
- The housing project is essential to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.
- The housing project can be completed and be available for allocation/occupation by 29th May 2020. This includes all social housing projects – construction, turn-key, refurbishment and leasing projects.
- The Contractor employed by the local authority or the Approved Housing Body/Lessor has confirmed that they can undertake the works in accordance with HSE and Government COVID-19-related public health guidelines and recommendations.
- The local authority confirms that the completion of the housing project is necessary to alleviate homelessness /overcrowding /numbers in emergency or temporary accommodation/transfers from HAP etc. in order to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.
- The project is funded by the Department under the range of social housing funding provisions.
As a result, we are working with our social housing clients to ensure that projects that fit within these criteria are included on the register of essential projects, allowing construction work to continue and prioritising delivery of these projects for our clients. Contractors, consultants and their respective agents must adhere to all the Public Health Guidelines relating to COVID-19 and failure to do so will result in such sites being shut down again.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to tragic loss of life alongside global economic stasis, we are proud to be playing a part to assist our clients in supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
For more information please get in touch with Fidelma McManus (Housing).
To discuss any other COVID-19 related issues impacting your business, please get in touch with Damian Maloney (Corporate and Commercial), Edward Evans (Corporate & Commercial), Aidan Marsh (Commercial Property), Gerry Gallen (Commercial Property), Sandra Masterson Power (Employment), Paul Gough (Employment), Dorit McCann (EU, Competition & Procurement), Barry Cahir (Litigation and Insolvency), Thomas O'Dwyer (Litigation), Sharon Delaney (Litigation), or your usual Beauchamps contact.