Society President ANDREW NUGENT sees challenges and opportunities in the coming year.
As we enter 2016, it is with an increased sense of optimism, as the horizon for our 11 Professional Groups appears brighter. All of our macro-economic indicators are turning into positive territory after years of negative or slow growth. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is predicting that economic growth in 2015 will be measured at about 6% of GDP and expects this growth to be around 4.5% in 2016. Other commentators are predicting significantly stronger figures. Unemployment is set to fall to 8% by the end of 2016 and the Government is projecting full employment within three years. This is of course good news for us and will present many opportunities across our land, property and construction sectors. Our construction members are now finally seeing an upturn in enquiries following the usual lag after the property investment recovery.
There will of course be challenges in the face of this recovery. We have a deficit in investment across our sectors, both human and infrastructure – built up over the past eight years. Skills shortages are emerging and our members have identified problems recruiting experienced professional staff and, indeed, graduates. For this reason, the Society recently embarked on a joint campaign with ConnectIreland in a bid to encourage Chartered Surveyors working abroad to return home to Ireland. ConnectIreland is the body responsible for attracting businesses to Ireland and rewards their ‘Connectors’, who bring the business home. The campaign, which ran until January 10, 2016, took the form of a presence in Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2 over the Christmas and New Year period, alerting Chartered Surveyors who came home for the holiday to the growing number of vacancies in Ireland and the many opportunities that await them should they return.
There is no doubt that the biggest challenge for our country as a whole is our national housing crisis, and it is vital that we as a Society, and as the leading professional organisation across the land, property and construction sectors, continue to work with Government and other stakeholders to seek solutions. Each of our Professional Groups has been very active with the various Departments and other stakeholders over the past year and will continue to be through 2016.
Addressing the issues
Over the past year our Journal has highlighted many of those areas where we have engaged with Government and I am delighted that the Journal continues in this issue to provide members with information on matters of professional relevance. There is no doubt that the Government’s move to allow an opt-out from the Building Regulations through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations in 2014 has stirred a variety of opinions. In fulfilling our brief, this edition of the Journal offers readers the opinions of Chartered Building Surveyor Noel Larkin, solicitor Mark Walsh, and Chartered Surveyor Michael Boyd, who is an estate agent based in Kilkenny. It is an interesting set of views and members will be watching the outcome in the market in 2016 very closely.
Following the publication of the Society’s report in September on the provision of affordable housing, the Government, through Minister Alan Kelly, announced a number of measures to boost residential construction. These actions were broadly welcomed by the Society. They include the reduction of development contributions, new national apartment planning guidelines, changes to strategic development zones, and provision of infrastructure finance. Unfortunately, as Norman Higgins points out in his article, the gap between cost and affordability is so considerable that it is not immediately evident that the measures will be sufficient to make all apartment schemes viable.
As I have mentioned above, we have come through some very difficult years, but thankfully we seem to be over the worst and can once again look forward to positive growth. Chartered Surveyors across all disciplines have suffered through those years and it is important that we learn from the mistakes of the past and build a more sustainable sector for all in the years ahead.
Our Society will continue to play a key role to support and represent our members while protecting the public interest by enhancing, advancing and enforcing professional standards across all disciplines.
Finally I would like to thank our members, Professional Groups, Council, Board, executive team and staff in Merrion Square for their tireless assistance over the past year and wish every one of you a happy and successful 2016.