Regulatory and planning issues ‘delaying delivery’ of new housing

Architects’ body says it can take three years for new houses to come on stream

The RIAI called for the adoption of more streamlined system to regulate and process housing planning applications. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The RIAI called for the adoption of more streamlined system to regulate and process housing planning applications. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

 

The State’s housing crisis is being compounded by lengthy planning processes and overly complex regulations, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has claimed.

Despite obvious demand in the market, the professional body said it can take upwards of three years for new houses or apartments to come on stream for rent or purchase.

In a report on housing delivery timelines, the RIAI identified issues such as limited resources at planning authority level, delays in the adoption of new local area plans (Laps) or county development plans (CDPs) and inconsistency in the interpretation of regulations by officials, all of which cause delays in the planning process.

The report, which is based on interviews with architectural practices involved in designing multi-unit housing and apartment developments, also highlighted delays in the provision of public utilities, as well as a lengthy statutory planning process as factors in slow build times.

The institute is calling for the adoption of more streamlined system to regulate and process housing planning applications, which would allow new housing developments proceed through the pre-construction stages quicker.

Central agency

One of its chief recommendations is for the establishment of a central agency to process all planning applications on behalf of the local authorities.

This would avoid having local officials interpreting the large number of regulations, policies and guidance documents, which has led to applications being rejected because of administrative errors, it said.

The RIAI also called for capacity within planning authorities to be increased, noting applicants, in some cases, have to wait up to three months for preliminary pre-planning meetings.

It also recommended the development of a national referrals body, noting that architects rely on technical guidance documents which are open to wide interpretation, even within the same planning authority.

“This approach would establish a body of clear precedents for future interpretation of regulations,” the institute said.

The RIAI also urged the Government to ensure new new Laps or CDPs were put in place prior to the expiry of current plans.

Delays between one plan ending and the follow-up plan coming into effect mean projects cannot proceed until the architect knows what the planning authority intends, it said.

“This report shows that for numerous structural and administrative reasons, it takes upwards of three years for new homes to become available to purchase or rent,” RIAI first vice-president John O’Mahony said.

“Building is complex and there are many variables, but it’s essential that Government implements systems that deliver consistency and remove uncertainty.”

Mr O’Mahony said if 800,000 new homes are to be delivered by 2050, the volume needed to facilitate the expected population increase, “ we need to ensure that all sides are working together with the same goal in mind”.

“Central government, local authorities, architects and planners require a unified approach to deliver quality homes and overcome major infrastructure deficits that lead to traffic congestion, ensure fire-safety standards are upheld and maintain sustainability targets,” he said.