Delivering hundreds of rapid-build modular homes for Ukrainian refugees is estimated to cost about €150 million, the Dáil’s spending watchdog has been told.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) provided an update on the project which will result in 700 homes – and possibly more – being built in various locations around the country.
Officials also told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) it would be possible to either send the homes to Ukraine after the war or to build permanent social housing on the sites. The OPW said Government would make these decisions.
The State has been under huge pressure to source refugee accommodation for people from Ukraine and elsewhere. The number of Ukrainians fleeing to Ireland from Russian aggression in their homeland is expected to reach more than 70,000 by the end of the year.
Under the first phase of construction, 206 homes will be built across five sites in Cavan Town; Mahon, Co Cork; Thurles, Co Tipperary; Doorly Park, Co Sligo; and Claremorris, Co Mayo with the first units due to be ready early in the new year.
Further sites are under consideration as part of a second phase of development in early 2023.
So far about 73 possible sites have been evaluated and three-quarters of these have been deemed not suitable for modular homes by the OPW.
OPW chairman Maurice Buckley told the PAC that his agency was initially asked to provide 500 rapid-build units but the Government has since asked it to increase the number to 700, adding this may rise even further.
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, the PAC chairman, asked about the expected cost of these 700 units and State Architect Ciarán Ó Connor said it will be in the order of €150 million.
The per-unit costs across five suppliers is between €135,000 and €155,000 for the two-bedroom homes that are A-rated for energy efficiency and have a lifespan of 60 years or more.
Significant investment is also needed to prepare the infrastructure at the various sites to social housing standards.
Mr Stanley said people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine must be helped but asked about the future of the homes after the war and whether there have been discussions about using the buildings for social housing.
Mr O’Connor said the OPW is providing the units but it will be the Department of Children that operates them and their future use will be a decision for Government.
He said: “You could lift those buildings up and send them to Ukraine or you could put them somewhere else. They’re literally a lift and plug.”
Mr Stanley said amid the current housing crisis he does not want them lifted anywhere.
The PAC was told that the locations are not designated for social housing and they are “marginal sites” which is challenging for the OPW’s team.
The committee heard there has been discussion on their future use and the option is open to the Department of Children to offer the homes to the Department of Housing.
Mr Buckley said the design work will allow for traditional-style permanent social homes – terraced or three-bedroom semidetached – to be built on the sites.
He confirmed the future of the sites is being considered and also said there is a value for money review.