New thinking on use made of ‘desirable’ land and family homes needed

Conference hears ‘empty nesters’ are one of the greatest obstacles to increasing the supply of family homes

Radical new thinking – including the possible rezoning for residential use of such ‘desirable’ sites as Elm Park Golf Course and the RTÉ campus, both in Dublin 4 – is needed if the housing supply crisis is to be tackled, a leading economist has said.

Radical new thinking – including the possible rezoning for residential use of such ‘desirable’ sites as Elm Park Golf Course and the RTÉ campus, both in Dublin 4 – is needed if the housing supply crisis is to be tackled, a leading economist has said.

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 21:43

Radical new thinking – including the possible rezoning for residential use of such ‘desirable’ sites as Elm Park Golf Course and the RTÉ campus, both in Dublin 4 – is needed if the housing supply crisis is to be tackled, a leading economist has said.

Ronan Lyons, assistant professor of Economics at Trinity College, Dublin also said one of the greatest obstacles to increasing the supply of family homes in the capital was the ‘empty nester’ cohort of older people who would not leave their three- and four-bed homes. He said they could be taxed out of their homes but there was a problem of where they would go because there weren’t enough suitable homes for them to ‘downsize’ into.

Mr Lyons was speaking at a conference in Trinity College ‘The Irish Housing Supply Crisis: What can policymakers do to address the problem?”. The conference heard that while 37 per cent of households in the capital were families with children, about 66 per cent of the housing stock was three and four-bedroom homes.

“So there is not a lack of family homes.” At issue was the “use of existing stock”.

“The problem here is the ‘empty nesters.’ Research shows we actually don’t have a shortage of family homes. We have lots of family homes. What we need is one- and two-bedroom units. The problem is the one and two-person households are living in the family homes.

“We could certainly tax them and try and get them out, but is that going to fly? Probably not and the question is where would they move?”

James Pike, Chairman of O’Mahony Pike Architects, said the “major need” was for an increase in the supply of “small family units” of one and two bedrooms.

“A lot of people I know of my age [LATE 60S]would like to move into an apartment or smaller unit if the right sort in the right place could be found.”

Mr Lyons said it was not just a question of building more housing in green-field sites. “We need to think about brown field as well, about best-use of land.” He looked at the use of land in one of the most desirable areas in the State – the 400 acres around the Dublin 4 area and its environs.

Dublin Bus and RTÉ have about 40 of those acres. Elm Park golf course has about 90 acres of land. That’s about a third of this entire area which is currently used for just knocking around and free-ranging. This is not good land-use.”

Referring to current levels of undersupply, particularly in Dublin, Mr Lyons said: “We’re not in a bubble now, but three or four years of this and we will definitely be in another bubble...There is a real concern among first time buyers that supply shortages are driving the market, driving price increases and with the expected change in house prices, if that keeps going up we could be in trouble.”