16,000 homes must be built every year, says Housing Agency
ALMOST 16,000 new homes must be built every year between now and 2018 just to meet demand in our towns and cities.
But Housing Agency chief executive John O'Connor has warned against a move to allow construction of only three- and four-bedroom family homes.
He insisted that valuable land needed to be utilised to the maximum extent possible, with more innovative planning than was seen during the boom.
The new report from the Housing Agency says the bulk of the homes – 37,600 – is needed in Dublin, but that there is also pent-up demand in Limerick and Galway.
"Some areas might not need housing this year, but will need it by 2018," said Mr O'Connor.
"There is a lot of focus on family homes in the housing debate but there's a huge issue in terms of sourcing accommodation for young working people which can be rented at an affordable price.
"We need to get accommodation to support investment and create employment. I would be concerned about thinking the solution is low-density and that we under-utilise the lands that we have close to city centres. We need to be very careful in terms of changing our approach."
In Dublin, 57pc of the 33,007 homes needed by 2018 will be required for smaller households of one or two people. Some 18pc of them will be for three-person households.
Mr O'Connor said: "I don't think its necessarily a debate about houses versus apartments. We need to look, more than we have in the past, at producing higher densities which aren't necessarily apartments."
The report comes following seven years of falls in the number of new homes being built.
In 2006, the height of the boom, some 93,419 units were built. This fell to 8,301 last year and some 1,287 have been completed so far in 2014.
Estate agent Saville's and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) have said that adjustments to tax rates and development levies and access to finance are needed to stimulate demand.
"The cost of house building is still at too high a level," said the CIF's director general Tom Parlon. "That is because the various taxes and levies have barely been altered since the downturn and do not reflect the current market reality."
In sharp contrast to the view of the Housing Agency, Saville's said the strongest demand was for family homes and so densities should be reduced.
The report sets out the housing requirement for each county, with just two – Longford and Leitrim – requiring no new homes. While Kilkenny needs housing now, 156 units a year, there will be no demand in Waterford until 2017.
The data was compiled using population projections from the Central Statistics Office.
Although there are still many unfinished or vacant properties around the country, this report did take into account vacant units, which average 7pc in Dublin and up to 14pc in the Border region.
Mr O'Connor also warned: "One area we need to tackle is areas being depopulated, like the south east and north east of Dublin. We need to seriously address that.
"It's not good to have under-utilised housing stock, or for people to live alone in a large house. We don't make it easy to downsize and remain in the area. We need to address that and utilise the housing stock."