State owns enough zoned land to build 114,000 homes

More than half the social housing waiting list could be cleared, new figures show

The State owns or controls enough zoned land to build 114,000 dwellings – half of which could be social housing.

This would be enough to clear more than half the social housing waiting list, and to build more than three times as many council homes as planned by Government, new figures show.

In Dublin there is enough publicly controlled zoned land to build 71,353 dwellings – of which 33,485 could be social housing – enough to house most of the approximately 40,000 households across the four Dublin local authorities’ housing waiting lists.

The dwellings could be built on zoned land owned by local authorities or controlled by Nama.


The Government's Rebuilding Ireland (RI) strategy sets a target of 13,189 social housing homes to be directly built by all 31 local authorities between 2016 and 2021.

The figures have been collated by architect and housing policy expert Mel Reynolds. Drawing on Nama and local authorities' data, Mr Reynolds calculates the State controls 3,008 hectares of land zoned for housing across the State – some 1,691 hectares controlled by Nama and 1,317 hectares owned by local authorities.

The State owns or controls 17.2 per cent of all undeveloped zoned land in the State, according to Mr Reynolds.

Some 48,724 homes could be built on council-owned zoned land and 65,399 homes on Nama-controlled land. Of the latter, 10 per cent (6,539) would be provided for social housing under Part V, giving a total of 55,263.

Under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, a developer must make 10 per cent of the dwellings available for sale to the local authority at a reduced rate.

Department of Housing data

The figures come a week after the Department of Housing published data showing just 1,775 social homes were built by local authorities and housing bodies last year; 603 were built in 2016 – a total of 2,378 in two years.

This represents 18 per cent of the Government’s target, and just 4.3 per cent of the number of homes that could be built on suitably zoned State-controlled land.

“These figures are far higher than previously thought and show either an enormous lack of ambition for housing on public land, or systemic inertia across all State agencies involved in housing – or both,” said Mr Reynolds.

“They also show the State is happy to facilitate strong increases in land values – the biggest brake on large-scale residential construction at the moment – by not utilising the land we own for a massive social and affordable housing building programme. The longer the State does nothing with this land, the greater the acute impact on housing and rental affordability.”

Across Dublin there are 1,212 hectares of publicly controlled zoned land, with potential for 33,485 social homes. Some 29,278 would be council homes on 421 hectares owned by local authorities. Nama, which controls 793 hectares, could oversee the building of 42,075 dwellings – 4,207 of which would be social housing.

“This data underlines the huge policy risk for any investor or developer in buying land at the moment,” said Mr Reynolds. “Given the amount of land in State ownership, land could lose its value very fast if there were to be a policy change and housing was actually built on public land at the scale it could be, and the scale that’s needed.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times