'Forget semi-Ds, build smaller units'
Large-scale developments of at least 500 units are needed to get economies of scale and deliver affordable homes, the Housing Agency has warned.
Chairman Conor Skehan told a forum on housing and homelessness that a return to building three-bed semi-detached homes will not solve the housing crisis.
He said units are needed for smaller households and the rental market. And he warned that we must not build the "wrong" type of house to cater for a market which no longer exists: "The nightmare situation is to find ourselves like Berlin or Madrid, where the entire sector built houses which didn't sell," he said.
"Our world is about to change very rapidly. It's going to be much smaller households. A third of the population lives alone, but are we preparing for that? Three-quarters of homes will be for three persons or less."
With house prices continuing to rise due to a lack of supply coming on stream, the Housing Agency says one-third of all households are in need of State supports or have "affordability issues".
The demand was for private rented housing, social rented housing and housing to purchase, and the current evidence suggested that demand was highest for quality rented homes.
But Mr Skehan warned a number of actions were needed to improve affordability, such as increasing land supply, reducing costs including materials and labour, reducing government charges and financing costs. Increasing scale or creating larger schemes was also necessary. In developments with a minimum of 500 units, the costs of concrete, windows and factory elements such as pre-cast kitchen pods was reduced.
"Affordability is beginning to slip out of people's reach again. We must begin to build to price," Mr Skehan said.
"If we cannot supply a house for €250,000, we should not be in the business of supplying houses."
Despite sufficient land being available to build 46,000 homes in the short-term, just over 12,000 were delivered last year.