There is currently seemingly endless media and journalistic coverage in Ireland relative to homelessness and the ‘housing crisis’. Government planning policy and guidance is now geared towards rapid housing delivery through ‘fast-track’ planning applications and better use of land in urban areas to maximise densities and contribute to compact growth.
Due to the housing market now reaching pre-2008 prices for both renters and buyers, combined with a squeeze on previously developed brownfield lands due to Government guidelines, land values are only set to continue to rise.
At present, under Section 96 of the Planning & Development Act 2000 (as amended), requires housing developments of 10 or more units to contribute 10% of these for the needs of social housing. This is one part of the legislation which should be scaled upwards. For example, the rate of affordable housing contributions in Scotland sits at 25%, with this broadly similar (but variable) in England.
Affordable housing provided by local authorities as promised by the Government since 2016 has been slow to come into operation, with the previous Affordable Housing Scheme stood down in 2011. There is now increasing pressure on Councils to use land in public ownership to help address the issue of a lack of affordable units and get those on the street and on waiting lists into homes.
Mechanisms such as increasing social housing requirement under Section 96 and making low interest finance for local authorities available would be a good starting point. The Government should not adopt a soft touch approach to developers and house builders who can well afford increased social housing contributions given the continual rise of urban land values.