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National planning regime is hurting housing supply in this country, say property experts


Respective county development plans (courtesy Savills)

Respective county development plans (courtesy Savills)

Respective county development plans (courtesy Savills)

The Government’s own National Planning Framework (NPF) is making it harder to deliver badly needed housing and will make the situation worse unless it is scrapped, according to new research from estate agents and property advisers Savills.

Land that could have delivered 100,000 homes has been dezoned as a direct result of the NPF in Meath, Kildare and the rest of the greater Dublin area, says Savills chief economist John Ring. 

Development has been dezoned despite the need for new homes where it doesn’t meet priorities for balanced regional development under the NPF.

That national policy framework, which was published in 2019, favours the building up of regional centres over Dublin-centric development, and local authorities must align their plans with the national strategy.

Meath and Kildare have seen the biggest number of sites dezoned. 

“A better balance of population between Dublin and the rest of the country is a laudable target but housing need is greatest where the jobs are and a policy that ignores that is doomed to fail. Aspiration is not reality,” said Mr Ring. 

Another key NPF target to build on brownfield sites in and around core urban areas is also proving to be a block on activity, he said. 

“There’s greater demand for brownfield developments from buyers due to location and developers want to build there but the reality is these sites are complex and expensive to develop so they aren’t being built on.”

The NPF was launched in 2019 by then housing minister Eoghan Murphy and set out goals for balanced regional development and the revival of urban centres. All local authorities are now bound by it when they prepare zoning policy out to 2040. 

“The framework is fundamentally flawed and, if left unchallenged, will only exacerbate the housing crisis but it could be scrapped at the stroke of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s pen,” said Mr Ring.

If the NPF stays in place, 734 new homes will be built in Donegal in 2040 compared to 642 in Fingal, which covers the major commuter towns of north county Dublin, added Mr Ring. 

He said many of the policies in the national plan were brought in to prevent a rerun of the Celtic Tiger era which was characterised by developer-led oversupply of homes in some remote locations and urban sprawl into what are now Dublin’s commuter counties. 

However, he said that in the context of a housing crisis, goals should be achievable rather than aspirational. 

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“We need a floor rather than a ceiling for housing delivery. After a lost decade of housing delivery, we are producing just four homes per 1,000 people in Dublin, less than half of the nine per 1,000 recorded going back 25 years ago and just a quarter of the output of 2006.”

Savills Ireland says four primary impediments exist within the NPF to the delivery of housing. These are:

:: Reduction of essential land for development.

:: Flawed population projection and forecasting models which envisions growth split 50:50 between Dublin and the rest of the country and targets housing supply accordingly.

:: Lack of flexibility on targets and timelines.

:: Rigid site development rules including one that 40pc of the delivery of new homes must take place on brownfield sites. 

Mr Ring said that basing planning on growth patterns of a 50:50 split between Dublin and the rest of the country is “flawed because they are unlikely to come to fruition”.

“By having a public policy perspective that is based on desires rather than reality, as we currently have, we are planning to fail,” he added.

“We can alleviate the current housing crisis and properly plan for Ireland’s housing needs, but these impediments must first be addressed.”

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