New law means builders must provide social housing

10 per cent of units in new estates or apartment complexes wil be set aside for social use

Property developers will not be able to escape the obligation to provide social housing in new schemes under new planning laws.

Under existing laws builders can exchange money or land instead of setting aside up to 20 per cent of new developments for social or affordable use, a provision under Part V of the Planning Act.

A revision of the legislation, makes it mandatory for developers to set aside up to 10 per cent of new developments for social use, according to Government sources.

This is likely to be criticised by the construction industry, which has lobbied for this part of the legislation to be abolished or suspended. It argues the measure is a burden on housebuilders struggling to recover the full cost of building.



However, Minister for the Environment

Alan Kelly

is expected to announce today the measure is crucial in meeting the needs of people who cannot afford homes.

Under existing laws, some developers have been able to build the social portions of new developments elsewhere. However, the draft laws are likely to require that social units are “predominantly on site”, according to well- placed sources.

Other measures in the revised planning law will include: A vacant site levy of up to 5 per cent of the value of derelict sites, aimed at tackling vacant sites in urban areas.

A “use-it-or-lose-it” clause regarding land zoned for development to reduce speculation or land hoarding. This is likely to oblige developers to begin on site or to have a portion of the development built within five years of receiving planning permission.

Revised development levies to be agreed with the industry, along with greater flexibility for certain portions of developments, with planning permission to be progressed.

Controversially, the revised planning legislation is not expected to have any reference to setting aside portions of new developments for “affordable housing”.

This measure was dropped in recent years after a glut of unsold “affordable” homes went to local authorities.

However, some campaigners have called for it to be restored following recent increases in house prices.

Under the old scheme, those with an income under a threshold could apply to buy homes for 30-40 per cent below the market price. The sale was subject to terms and conditions, such as a ban on selling a home for 10 years after buying it.

Many of these people now find themselves stuck in houses or apartments that are too small for their needs or in the wrong location. In addition, the idea of providing discounted homes on the open market goes against new “tenure-neutral” housing policies, which say incentives should not be given to home-buyers over renters or vice versa.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent