Developer wants thousands of acres of unzoned land designated for house building

Michael O'Flynn wants emergency measure introduced to free up land in urban areas

Michael O’Flynn says his proposal would deter land hoarding, as the increase in supply of sites would reduce the likelihood of sharp price rises in the future. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Michael O’Flynn says his proposal would deter land hoarding, as the increase in supply of sites would reduce the likelihood of sharp price rises in the future. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Cork property developer Michael O’Flynn has urged the Government to introduce an emergency measure that would involve designating thousands of acres of unzoned land in urban areas for house building.

Mr O’Flynn believes his plan would bring down the price of land, a saving that could then be passed on to home buyers and “revolutionise” the housing crisis here.

In a proposal to Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, the Cork developer has suggested that local authorities in rent pressure zones be required to designate land currently without zoning as part of a strategic land reserve (SLR) initiative. He believes this could free up 3,000 acres of land in Dublin and Cork alone, for the building of between 40,000 and 50,000 new homes.

Stumbling block

Mr O’Flynn has proposed an amendment to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 so that any planning application for strategic housing development on land that is an SLR “shall be deemed to be compliant with the development plan in relation to the zoning of the land”.

This would eliminate a stumbling block to the development of land that is not zoned for residential purposes.

To qualify for the SLR designation, the owners and developers of the lands would have to meet certain conditions.

Sufficient funding

These include being able to demonstrate that they hold the title to the land, that sufficient funding is in place for a development, and that the site could be serviced within a specified timeframe.

The builder would also have to give a commitment to begin construction within a timeframe set down in ministerial guidelines. A failure to do so would lead to the loss of planning permission, and a ban of six years on the site being zoned for development.

Any development would have to be sustainable in terms of local amenities and public transport, and would have to include social and affordable housing. To avoid price speculation, he is also prepared to consider that a “certificate of reasonable value” be placed on each site.

Mr O’Flynn believes his proposal would deter land hoarding, as the increase in supply of sites would reduce the likelihood of sharp price rises in the future.

“We are not dealing with the present housing crisis, which is calling for an immediate supply of housing that is affordable,” Mr O’Flynn told The Irish Times.

“Housing is too expensive and the price of land is too expensive. If we don’t face up to this now, we’re not going to fix the housing crisis. I’m not saying this is an overnight solution but it will start to solve the problem.”

Existing legislation

The measure would be linked to the existing emergency legislation for strategic housing development, which allows for fast-track planning applications to be made to An Bord Pleanála for developments of 100 or more units.

This legislation is due to expire on December 31st, 2019, with a provision to extend it by two years.

Mr O’Flynn believes that between 45,000 and 50,000 houses are required annually here in the “next number of years” to meet demand.