THE private sector needs to match the housing ambitions of public bodies.
That is the message from Ann Doherty, chief executive of Cork City Council, who said that it is not possible for local authorities to solve the housing shortage on their own.
Currently, City Hall has more than 500 homes at various stages of the construction process. A further 394 are in the planning process and ambitious plans for several other schemes, including the major development at Old Whitechurch Road which could include as many as 600 units alone, are moving forward.
However, with the exception of student accommodation, this ambition has not been matched by private developments.
Ms Doherty said: “If you look at the planning statistics, there is some traction in terms of new applications but that is not converting into product development yet. We can do the development plan, do the zoning and challenge ourselves in terms of density — and we are very supportive of greater density and supporting the lifestyle of what many of our newer cities want — but the market doesn’t seem to be in a position to provide that product.
“I am advised that it is to do with the financing of it. There seems to be a barrier to sourcing finance and the cost differential between the cost to build and the realisable price to sell.”
Higher density is key to boosting housing supply, the city chief said. This could translate into more high-rise developments. In October, An Bord Pleanála approved the construction of a 25-storey apartment tower in Mahon, while pre-consultation has taken place regarding other apartment developments in the city, including one near the Elysian tower.
Ms Doherty said: “All cities have to have a mix of accommodation to meet the needs of different citizens. Good quality apartments located in good areas are very attractive and very prevalent in other cities. Density and height is part of that — to achieve density, you need height. Height is challenging because you don’t want to lose the beautiful character of the city so it is about the sensitive approach and the appropriateness of location.”