Sunday 22 September 2019

Paul Melia: How planning policies on urban sprawl are not working

Lack of accurate data on number of homes being built remains of huge concern. Stock Image: Bloomberg
Lack of accurate data on number of homes being built remains of huge concern. Stock Image: Bloomberg
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

What's particularly striking about the CSO figures is just how few new homes are coming onto the market and trading hands, some three years after the housing crisis was recognised and despite a plethora of Government policies aimed at ramping-up construction.

It's also clear that planning policies to prevent urban sprawl don't appear to be working - we continue to build on the outskirts of Dublin and into the commuter belt. This despite a lack of massive investment in public transport services and other essentials.

It appears we have learned nothing. Of the 5,535 new homes sold in the capital, the focus is on Dublin 15 and Dublin 24, far removed from the city centre.

A 2014 report showed there was sufficient land within Dublin City Council's area to build almost 30,000 homes, but we keep building out. In expensive parts of the city, homes are being built, but they're out of reach for many.

If nothing else, the housing crisis was an opportunity to get things right, to curb sprawl and build sustainable communities. To build high-density where appropriate, and consolidate our towns and cities.

Our failure will have repercussions. A report from the IMF published late last week noted that our infrastructure is at risk of deteriorating ahead of time because the Government isn't putting aside enough money for maintenance.

And what happens when growing numbers of commuters hit the road in their cars? Those maintenance bills, already unfunded, rise, leading to problems down the line.

This problem isn't confined to Dublin. Of the 1,675 homes sold in Cork, just 474 were in the city.

Another 741 were sold in commuter towns including Kinsale, Cobh, Midleton, Ballincollig, Carrigaline and Glanmire.

There's enough land in Cork City for more than 3,000 homes.

This is not about limiting choice. It's about making best use of infrastructure already paid for, giving people the option to live close to their work, and in communities with sufficient numbers of residents so that local services and amenities like shops, pubs and sports clubs can be sustained.

The lack of accurate data on the number of homes being built remains of huge concern.

There is ongoing work around this, but not until we know how many homes we're building and where they are will we solve this crisis.

Irish Independent

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