Dublin councils accused of preventing housing development

John FitzGerald calls for local authorities to address regulatory constraints in the sector

Economist John FitzGerald has said a ‘profound pessimism’ nationally meant Ireland missed an opportunity to deal with the housing crisis at a much earlier date. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Dublin local authorities are holding back the development of housing through their failure to deal with regulatory constraints and restrictions on height, economist and Irish Times columnist John FitzGerald has said.

A “profound pessimism” nationally meant Ireland missed the opportunity to deal with the housing crisis at a much earlier date, he said.

“It was clear from 2012, when the recovery turned the corner, we were going to need 25,000 dwellings a year over the following 20 years, but people didn’t believe Ireland had a future and nothing was done. We missed the opportunity of taking action three years earlier, which might have put us in a better position today.”

However, he said, Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council were still not addressing the problems holding back housing supply.


“The major problem at the moment is the supply constraint in delivering housing and this body, Dublin City Council, is one of the problems,” he said.

“The fact is that you [Dublin City Council] have failed and Dún Laoghaire has failed to deal with some the regulatory problems, that it is in your hands to deal with.

“Where you can make a difference, where you can deliver a much denser city through higher development in suitable areas, that is something you can deliver and it does not need money, it needs regulatory change.”

Property tax

He added that the councils had reduced the Local Property Tax instead of using the money to fund more infrastructure.

Mr Fitzgerald was speaking at an infrastructure summit hosted by Dublin City Council and chaired by Fianna Fáil councillor Paul McAuliffe.

Green Party councillor and lecturer in urban planning Ciarán Cuffe said there was a danger in focusing too much on height. “The issue is one of density,” he said.

There was, however, too much bureaucracy in the delivery of housing, with particular delays in the Department of Housing, in terms of sanctioning local authorities to build, he added.

“It takes a minimum four years into build social housing in the middle of a housing crisis.”

Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said if the council raised property tax the Department of the Environment [now housing] would take it away from Dublin.

“It is the most destructive and dysfunctional department, marked by bureaucratic inertia and the desire to hold on to power

City architect Ali Grehan said the public-procurement process stymied the council in choosing the best people for the job.

“Public procurement means we cannot build relationships with good people. A private operator doesn’t have to throw out an opportunity to everyone in the market and accept the lowest price, but that is what the public sector has to do.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times