AVERIL CONTRIBUTION TO THE SEANAD ON EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY BILL 2013

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I want to take the opportunity, while the Minister is here, to reiterate a point that I have made previously, particularly during debates on the Priory Hall development, that self-certification does not work. It did not work for Priory Hall. I appreciate that he has put in place a slightly better system but it falls far short of what is required. The only system that will truly work and that people who buy homes – the biggest investment of their lives – will have confidence in is a proper local authority backed inspection system. In that instance, all properties would be inspected either by local authority staff, or by people under their oversight, and then they would sign off on the buildings. It would not be self-certification. I appreciate such a system would cost more but it would be worthwhile. Buying a home is the biggest investment and risk of one’s life so it is worth paying a bit more for a guarantee.

Senator Norris referred to the speculative building sector which is where I think the real issue lies. When people undertake to self-build houses they will make sure and be confident that the work is done properly. I suggest that the person who is most likely to care about what is being built is somebody who built it themselves and is on site because he or she wants to make sure the property is fit for purpose. The problem with a speculative developer is that he or she does not care and only considers the profit margin. Such developers look for opportunities. To be fair, some developers have built excellent properties in this country. They have built estates with decent facilities but, unfortunately, there are others who did not.

Last week I had a meeting with Fingal County Council and Dublin City Council to talk about unfinished developments. I shall raise two issues with the Minister. First, a developer built half an estate in Fingal at Castlemoyne, Balgriffin, and has just got permission to build hundreds more houses across the road from an earlier development that remains unfinished. That is a disgrace and we need to change the law to prevent that from happening. I raised the matter with the council officials who attended the meeting but they said that they cannot penalise the developer as it is not within their power. The law does not allow them to refuse permission. I questioned this policy, as did other colleagues at the meeting, and wondered whether the situation was true.

I ask the Minister, if it is untrue, to raise the matter with Fingal County Council. This is a crazy situation. We should have a system that supports good development and acknowledges same. We should have a system that accepts that there are developers who care about what they build, who care about putting their name to a development and reach a standard of excellence. Unfortunately, there are other developers who are out to cut corners. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and create the best possible system. The UK has a proper local authority backed system and so do other countries. Ireland should move towards introducing such a system. I wanted to take this opportunity to make these points to the Minister.

There are no one-off houses and self-builds in my area so it is not an issue that I can pretend to know a whole lot about. Earlier the point was well made that people building their own home would have more interest in making sure that it works out properly than a speculative developer. It seems to me that the regulations brought in are far too soft on the speculators. In addition, self-certification is the route being pursued which is wrong.

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