National plans for residential housing 'fundamentally flawed' - Savills

The report on residential land supply argued current policy "will only exacerbate the housing crisis" if left unchanged
National plans for residential housing 'fundamentally flawed' - Savills

Muireann Duffy

The National Planning Framework, which sets out the State's residential housing targets and guidelines for the 20-year period to 2040, is "fundamentally flawed" and "will only exacerbate the housing crisis" if left unchanged, according to Savills Ireland.

The criticism follows a study by the property advisors examining residential land supply in the country.

Describing the housing market as "already fraught with challenges and problems", the Savills report identifies issues flowing from the National Planning Framework (NPF), relating to land zoning, population projections, unit delivery timelines and site development rules.

Arguing that the NPF has sought to "divert growth away from Dublin", the report states there has been a large reduction of zoned residential land available for development within the Greater Dublin Area (Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow).

Savills adds that these zones would have had the capacity to accommodation over 100,000 housing units, or the equivalent of 10 years' supply.

Housing demand

The report also raises issues with Housing Need and Demand Assessments (HNDAs) carried out by local authorities to estimate the area's requirements for the coming six-year period. These HNDAs estimate that Dublin city's population will increase by 20-25 per cent by 2024, while Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford's populations are forecast to increase by over 50 per cent.

Savills' director of research John Ring said basing planning on a 50:50 balance population growth scenario (that the population in the mid-east region, which includes Dublin, will increase in line with growth in the rest of the country) is flawed as such a balance is "unlikely to come to fruition".

"Economies of scale and resulting agglomeration effects in sectors such as tech are leading to a strengthening, rather than a weakening, of Dublin.

"Incoming foreign direct investment will not consult the goals of the NPF when deciding if and where to locate in Ireland. The majority will continue to go to Dublin where the talent pool is deepest."

The flexibility of delivery timelines is also a point of contention in the report, with Savills arguing that the amount of land zoned for residential development is "too little to realistically deliver the required housing, even at the low targets prescribed by the HNDAs".

Mr Ring said the reduction of the headroom allowance in the current NPF to 25 per cent beyond the permitted residential development zoning amount means 80 per cent of builds will need to be delivered within their development plan period in order for overall housing targets to be met.

Coupled issues which are having a cooling effect on the construction industry, such as inflation and labour shortages, he said meeting such tight targets is not realistic.

"If we can’t get things right at a national level, then the trickle-down effect of these mistakes mean we are destined to fail no matter what resolutions we may find to the building and development issues.

"By having a public policy perspective that is based on desires rather than reality, as we currently have, we are planning to fail. We can alleviate the current housing crisis and properly plan for Ireland’s housing needs, but these impediments must first be addressed," Mr Ring added.

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