Developer O’Flynn calls for task force to deal with housing crisis

Michael O’Flynn also wants help-to-buy scheme extended to 2025

In addition to a task force, developer Michael O’Flynn has called for the Central Bank’s macroprudential rules on mortgage lending to be relaxed. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

In addition to a task force, developer Michael O’Flynn has called for the Central Bank’s macroprudential rules on mortgage lending to be relaxed. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

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Cork property developer Michael O’Flynn has urged the Government to create a task force to develop a series of reforms to tackle the housing crisis and help to deliver up to 140,000 new homes over the next five years.

Mr O’Flynn has also called on the Government to extend the help-to-buy scheme to 2025 (it is due to expire at the end of 2021). In addition, he has called for the Central Bank’s macroprudential rules on mortgage lending to be relaxed, and for the introduction of a loan scheme that would involve the State acquiring an equity stake in the home “secured by a second charge to bridge affordability”.

The developer also wants priority given to bringing derelict, underused sites and development land back into use, and to consider tax breaks to “support [the] viability of brownfield and infill development”.

In a 12-page document sent to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and other senior politicians, Mr O’Flynn suggests that the task force would report to a subcommittee of the Cabinet chaired by the Minister for Housing, and would have a maximum five-year remit.

“This task force will comprise a focused group of experienced people drawn from the public and private sectors, supported by a small support group of senior administration drawn from the Civil Service,” Mr O’Flynn suggests.

The core function of the body would be to develop and oversee the implementation of the Government’s housing reform programme in terms of priorities, responsibilities, targets and timelines, the document states. He suggests the first remit of the task force would be to secure a “delivery partner”, drawn from the project-management sector.

In addition, Mr O’Flynn wants the Government to extend the serviced site fund beyond local authority and State land and calls for the Government to reduce or eliminate VAT on construction, and to overhaul the land-zoning system to help reduced land prices.

The document outlines Mr O’Flynn’s objection to the proposal from Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to hold a referendum to cap land prices, as part of their coalition programme.

“The proposed constitutional referendum has already undermined the confidence of capital providers at a fragile moment and the uncertainty created by the announcement will immediately adversely impact on housing delivery,” he states.

Zoning

Mr O’Flynn says land prices could be reduced by “radically overhauling the existing . . . zoning system by outlining the identification of land from strategic land reserves to be selected by local authorities on foot of submissions made by land owners who must meet predefined criteria including a plan, development partner and timelines for delivery of both affordable and social homes”.

In other proposals, the Cork developer says house design must use land more efficiently while innovation in design and construction techniques, particularly around the promotion of carbon-neutral solutions and increased efficiencies, could reduce costs.

Mr O’Flynn wants the Government to prioritise infrastructural investment in “key target growth areas” and to amend legislation relating to compensation for compulsory purchase.

The document makes clear Mr O’Flynn’s opposition to the State’s Land Development Agency (LDA) building houses on private sites.

“The remit of the LDA must be to build homes on public land for affordable purchase, social housing and cost rental,” he said. “The proposal that the LDA would build houses on private land could well undermine healthy competition and diminish the ability of the private sector to meet its targets. Hence it could reduce rather than increase housing delivery.”