Advisory body urges State to build homes on public land

National Economic and Social Council cites former docks and rail depots as potential options

The National Economic and Social Council argued that the State must change its system of urban development, land management and housing provision.

The National Economic and Social Council argued that the State must change its system of urban development, land management and housing provision.

 

The State should look to land it already owns such as former docks and rail depots as it seeks to solve the housing crisis, the National Economic and Social Council (Nesc) has said.

In a new report, the Government advisory body describes land in public ownership as the “most critical resource” available to the State, noting that a “substantial amount” of such land is located in cities and towns.

It highlights “large city-centre areas” that were previously used as docks or rail depots, as well as areas along new public transport corridors opened up by infrastructure projects, such as the Luas Cross-City line in Dublin.

The recommendation is one of a series made in the Nesc report, Urban Development Land, Housing and Infrastructure: Fixing Ireland’s Broken System.

“Publicly owned sites now have a central role in addressing the housing crisis and starting the transition to a new system of active land management and urban development,” the report finds.

Nesc also cautions against too much focus on generating returns for the State when addressing housing needs.

In using publicly owned land for housing and related infrastructure, it is “vital” the land be put in the hands of bodies who will develop it in a “timely and appropriate manner”, rather than seeking to maximise State revenue by selling it outright, it says.

“This would constitute a change from the approach adopted by many public bodies, including Nama.”

Public land should be used to create “permanent housing affordability” through cost rental (whereby rents are based on the cost of building the home rather than its value), social housing and affordable housing for purchase, as simply building more homes will not be enough to solve the crisis, according to the report.

‘Largely systemic’

Nesc, which advises Government on the development of the economy, argues that the State must change its system of urban development, land management and housing provision.

“The dramatic experience of boom, bust and prolonged stasis makes it clear that the problem is largely systemic,” it says.

“It is a mistake to see the current crisis as simply a legacy of the crash, which, as it fades, will yield a return to ‘normality’.”

Nesc suggests a site value tax on development land would have “a number of advantages” including having a “less distortionary effect” than other forms of taxation, as well promoting “improved land use”.