Friday 15 December 2017

Builders to be given land at low cost for cheap housing

The Government plans to use land owned by local authorities, the Office of Public Works (OPW) and other State agencies to provide cheap sites for builders to help boost housing supply for first-time buyers. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
The Government plans to use land owned by local authorities, the Office of Public Works (OPW) and other State agencies to provide cheap sites for builders to help boost housing supply for first-time buyers. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Developers will be allowed to buy State-owned lands at a knock-down price if they can deliver starter homes for no more than €200,000.

The Government plans to use land owned by local authorities, the Office of Public Works (OPW) and other State agencies to provide cheap sites for builders to help boost housing supply for first-time buyers.

The move is part of the Government's 'Rebuilding Ireland' programme, which aims to ramp up delivery of 25,000 new homes every year, and 47,000 social units by 2021.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has also announced details of 23 sites in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick where housing will be prioritised over the next three and four years.

Some 26,400 will be delivered in the next four years, and up to 60,000 over the longer-term.

A housing seminar heard that despite planning permission being in place for more than 27,000 units in Dublin - and sufficient land zoned for more than 410,000 homes across the country - many projects did not stack up financially.

When homes cost more than €300,000 in Dublin, and €250,000 or more in Cork and other cities, demand for units "tapers off markedly". Analysis from the Society of Chartered Surveyors also suggests there are "significant challenges" in delivering new homes at less than €300,000. While Nama plans to deliver 20,000 units over the next five years, its head of residential delivery, John Collison, said many schemes were unlikely to go ahead unless house prices rose further.

"The viability of many potential projects is dependent on house price growth. The gap between house sale prices and development costs may often prohibit development," he said, adding the problem was particularly acute in relation to apartment developments.

The Government also plans to allow developers to seek extensions of planning permission for existing sites, and is conducting an analysis of the State land bank to help decide if some of these sites could be used to build homes.

It wants developers to provide innovative ways of building homes and communities, which can be replicated across the country. It is hoped to secure 3,000 new homes under this initiative.

"Designers and providers of housing will be challenged to work together in coming up with new systems that are capable of delivering new homes for less than €200,000," the 'Rebuilding Ireland' plan says.

"The approach should be capable of being replicated across a wide range of sites. The prize for the delivery of such new design and construction systems will be the provision, at low cost . . . of a suitable site for the delivery of the homes."

Mr Coveney said the 12,500 homes built last year were not keeping pace with an annual population growth of 40,000. He warned there would be "no flexibility" for developers hoping to avoid providing social housing. Cities could not be "divided" between areas with social housing, and others where only private homes were located, he added.

Irish Independent

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