Friday 13 December 2019

House building rises under planning change

NAMA’s plan may speed up the construction of housing in Dublin
NAMA’s plan may speed up the construction of housing in Dublin

NAMA has begun to change how its debtors go about planning applications, in a move which could result in sweeping amendments to the planning process.

The state bad bank said on Thursday it would be able to provide as many as 4,500 houses and apartments in Dublin over the next 18 months.

As part of that plan, the agency said it will engage in "clustering" when it comes to dealing with several planning applications in the same area.

In essence the process will be a more co-ordinated approach when working with local authorities. As things stand at present, if three NAMA debtors want to build in the same general area, they make separate planning applications and go through the process independently.

That can lead to a long drawn out process, with developers looking to build units the authority doesn't want, and possibly only worsening the housing shortage.

Under the clustering plan, NAMA will consult with the local authority to find out what type of housing the council wants built, and then the debtors will be able to submit a joint planning application instead of separate ones.

It is hoped that the clustering plan will allow for quicker decisions and, more applications being granted.

In it's presentaion this week, NAMA said it would decide where to implement the clustering plan based on the zoning of particualr sites, the planned phasing of construction as well as the housing density, market demand and surrounding infrastructure.

If the plan works, it should put an end to developers applying to build apartments in areas where local authorities want three bedroom family homes, or similar clashes.

In Dublin, clustering has already been used for applications relating to developments in Malahide, Swords, Stepaside, Clongriffin and Dun Laoghaire, as well as Castleknock, Ashtown and Knocklyon.

NAMA is also using clustering for planning applications in Blanchardstown, Shankhill and Donabate.

Outside of the city, NAMA has used the clustering strategy in the commuter belt, in the likes of Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Louth. While some of those projects are so-called "phase 2 projects" that require more work on the planning side, at least three of them are said to be "shovel ready" and can be begun almost immediately.

The clustering plan, promises to sharply improve the planning process, and is hoped to dramatically speed up developers' ability to meet the needs of a market that has seen little or no house builings since 2008.

The agency has the potential to offer up to 25,000 residential units in sites linked to NAMA debtors and 2,000 units funded by the agency are currently under construction, it told the National Housing Supply Conference this week.

NAMA is not a developer, its chief executive Brendan McDonagh said at a conference for policy makers and officials from government, the local authorities and housing agencies in Dublin on Thursday.

But it supports house building with finance for builders.

Mr McDonagh, whose agency has been blamed for not maintaining housing supply in recent years, said it was not commercially justifiable to build between 2010 and 2013. Profit margins, even in Dublin are still tight, he said.

Michael Noonan is expected to announce measures in the October Budget aimed at boosting construction.

"But, of course, the Government cannot solve all of the problems that have to be addressed and the industry itself needs to play its role," he said.

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