Behind the News: Kieran Rose, planning expert

Nama’s plan to build 20,000 houses will help Dublin’s housing crisis, but the capital faces other hurdles as well, according to the city planner

The announcement in the Budget this week that the National Asset Management Agency will build 20,000 homes by 2020 will go some way to addressing the housing crisis in Dublin, according to one planning expert.

Kieran Rose said, "It's brilliant that Nama has been tasked by the Government to build houses, because they can move quickly." According to Rose, Nama has access to large sites in Dublin's docklands and on the South Circular Road. "They can work efficiently, effectively and professionally with the sites owned by developers" on their books.

He was speaking after taking part in Wednesday’s Big Housing Debate, at Liberty Hall, organised by the Open House Dublin architectural festival.

Rose has been involved in two contentious housing issues in Dublin in recent years. The first is the vacant-land levy, which passed into law this year. Essentially, it compels developers to pay 3 per cent of the market value of undeveloped vacant sites from 2019.

“There’s a transition period for developers to build on these sites or sell them on. The intention is to change behaviour, attitudes and culture towards vacant land,” Rose said.

One recent survey found 60 hectares of vacant land spread over 280 sites in Dublin. “Eighty per cent of development land is owned by people who have no interest in developing it. Land hoarding like this affects the affordability of housing in Dublin.”

Dublin City Council’s increase in the minimum size of apartments is the other issue he has been involved in.

“In the 1990s and 2000s people felt we weren’t producing a quality apartment in Dublin and that apartments in Dublin would become the tenements of the future,” Rose said at the Open House debate.

In 2007 planning regulations stipulated that apartments in Dublin must have floor areas of at least 55sq m, with floor-to-ceiling heights of 2.7m.

“The city councillors passed these specifications into the regulations and the Dublin City development plan, yet people are still trying to reduce the size,” Rose said.

Indeed, people in the audience of the Open House debate said these minimum sizes were preventing the construction of urgently needed new rental apartments.

Lorcan Sirr, who lectures in housing at Dublin Institute of Technology, said that single people don't necessarily want to live in small apartments.

He argued that Dublin City Council’s recent decision to reduce the minimum size to 45sq m for rental properties discriminates against renters.

There was also discussion about how Dublin might benefit from properly managed build-to-let schemes built by international investors.

Frances Ruane of the Economic and Social Research Institute, who chaired the debate, suggested that we need further discussion about apartment size in Dublin. The city needs about 10,000 new homes each year; last year only 3,300 were built.

The Nama sites are expected to provide about 4,000 homes next year, three-quarters of which will be starter homes.

Open House Dublin, whose theme is "this place we call home", ends on Monday;

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