Saturday 24 March 2018

Wrong homes being built in wrong places

Photo: Frank McGrath
Photo: Frank McGrath
New households created 2011 - 2018
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The number of elderly people living in our towns and cities will grow by more than 32,000 by 2018 - as pressure on the creaking housing system reaches crisis point.

New data shows that shrinking household sizes means that mostly properties for one and two people are required, but these are not being delivered.

It means a complete lack of options for those interested in moving to a smaller home while staying in the same neighbourhood. And it also has the effect of failing to provide young couples with viable options to live near their workplace.

This week has been dominated by fallout from a controversial report that suggested older people could be incentivised to downsize and make way for young families.

But data compiled for the Irish Independent shows there would be few options for those who did want to move.

Housing expert Dr Lorcan Sirr said the planning system was only facilitating developers who wanted to build three-bed semi-Ds - which sold quickest and at the most profit.

But there is a lack of homes being developed on smaller sites that would enable people to remain in their communities.

An analysis of population trends, conducted by Future Analytics Consulting on behalf of the Irish Independent, sets out the housing we need by 2018.

It suggests the population across 272 built-up urban areas will swell by almost 103,000 between 2014 and 2018. Of this, almost 33,000 will be aged 65 or older, a 9.6pc increase.

The highest rate of increase is in commuter counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow (up 16.8pc) as well as in Dublin (10pc) - areas where demand for homes is highest.

For the period of 2011 to 2018, the research suggests about 120,000 new households will be formed. These require construction of 80,000 new homes, with the remainder coming from existing stock. The vast bulk needed, at 71pc, would be for just one or two people.

Dr William Hynes, the managing director of Future Analytics Consulting, said building homes in the suburbs raised questions of sustainability and urban sprawl.

"Are we building the right kind of housing for the elderly, in the right locations where they currently live?" he said. "People might want a three or four or five-bedroom home, and that comes down to choice and preference. The key message is the need for more evidence to allow more informed decisions to be made. It's time to match what the market requires and what is being delivered."

While local authorities are obliged to set out the requirement for different housing types in their areas, there is no specific national guidance on the types of homes to be built.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, from DIT, said homes of 85 square metres would be sufficient for most household types, and that around 80 units could be built on a one-acre infill site.

"A lot of older people don't want to move out of their houses, they don't want to move out of their communities, but there's bucketloads of infill sites in the cities where you could satisfy a huge swathe of need, and you could build roof terraces and courtyards and balconies to provide living space," he said.

"Smaller household sizes doesn't mean smaller properties. One and two-person households have friends who come to visit, and who need bedrooms for grandkids and guests.

"Underlying everything in Ireland is the assumption that when you're 66 your mortgage is paid off and your housing needs are met. But your housing need can change. I think it's something the Government haven't got their eye on."

The data comes after the ESRI warned that the lack of housing supply could lead to a return of long commutes into the suburbs. The Construction Industry Federation has become the latest group to demand a dedicated housing minister to tackle the problem.

Irish Independent

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