Savills says ‘unrealistic’ National Planning Framework will entrench Dublin housing shortage

Savills Ireland researchers criticise basing report on ‘desired growth patterns is flawed because they are unlikely to come to fruition’

Assumptions that underpin the Government’s National Planning Framework (NPF) about how population growth will be spread out across the country are “unrealistic”, and will mean “we are structurally under-provisioning housing supply in the Dublin region for the next 20 years”, one of Ireland’s biggest property agents has said.

In its Residential Land Supply Study 2022, published on Tuesday, researchers at Savills Ireland have concluded that elements of the framework, which was introduced in 2018, will impede “the roll-out of a residential housing development strategy” that will deliver “sufficient homes in the right locations”.

The researchers said the NPF’s focus on increasing residential density within urban areas to prevent urban sprawl means that less land has been made available in county development plans for the greater Dublin area than in previous times. This amounts to “a large reduction” in zoned residential land, which they estimate would have had the capacity to accommodate more than 100,000 units in Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, the equivalent of around a decade’s worth of supply.

Savills also argued that the population projections that underlie the NPF are “flawed” and “unrealistic”.

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“Rather than using the baseline spatial population scenario produced by the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute),” the report highlights, “the NPF uses the 50:50 balanced growth scenario. More a policy goal rather than likely outcome, this envisages growth to be equally split between the mideast region (which incorporates Dublin) and the rest of the country, with Dublin city pencilled in to grow by between 20 per cent and 25 per cent by 2040, a rate of growth just above the national average. In contrast, the cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford are allocated to grow by 50 per cent over the period, more than double the rate of Dublin.”

However, the researchers argue that basing the framework on “desired growth patterns is flawed because they are unlikely to come to fruition”. The capital remains the most popular destination for foreign direct investment, they said, and the “majority [of multinationals] will continue to go to Dublin where the talent pool is deepest”.

“In this context utilising the unrealistic 50:50 population projection means we are structurally under-provisioning housing supply in the Dublin region for the next 20 years,” the researchers said.

“By having a public policy perspective that is based on desires rather than reality, as we currently have, we are planning to fail,” said John Ring, director of research at Savills Ireland in a statement. “We can alleviate the current housing crisis and properly plan for Ireland’s housing needs, but these impediments must first be addressed.

“Ireland’s residential housing market is already fraught with challenges and problems, but if we can’t get things right at a national level then the trickle-down effect of these mistakes means we are destined to fail no matter what resolutions we may find to the building and development issues.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times