Tuesday 11 December 2018

Desperation to build housing now comes at a heavy price

Writer Colum McCann opposes the sale of playing fields at his former school, Clonkeen College, to a developer. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Writer Colum McCann opposes the sale of playing fields at his former school, Clonkeen College, to a developer. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ronald Quinlan, Commercial Property Editor

While the presence of a near-record 79 cranes on the Dublin city centre skyline has given rise to concerns that the capital's office market is moving into, or already in, bubble territory, it seems the only line we've been hearing about development land from the property industry is that there's just too little of it to meet the urgent need for housing.

From those speculators who bought at the height of the crash now waiting to maximise their profits, to the developers who can't secure affordable finance, to the State itself which seems gripped by inertia, there are a myriad of reasons why the land required isn't immediately available to be built on.

And while the Government has made efforts to address certain of these obstacles with the introduction of a site value tax to discourage land hoarding payable from 2019, and funding for developers to be made available through Home Building Finance Ireland (HBFI), nothing it seems, has been sufficient to quell the public and political clamour for new homes.

Almost everyone is agreed that the answer to our housing crisis is to build on land wherever we can find it, and to do it right now.

This combination of urgent demand and the frantic effort to meet it is dangerous, and mirrors ominously the frenzy that gripped the housing market during the so-called Celtic Tiger years.

Which is why we need to stop now to consider just where we want to see the homes of tomorrow being built.

Do we, for instance, really want to see the playing fields at schools such as Clonkeen College in Dublin replaced with houses?

And do we really want to have our sporting clubs approached by developers with offers of cash and land swaps to prise them from their proper place at the heart of our communities ?

The answer today to those questions may well be 'yes' or a non-committal shrug of the shoulders.

Faced with the consequences tomorrow of our acquiescence however, our answer might well be different.

But by then, it will be too late.

Sunday Independent

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