The Irish Times view on the housing crisis: A broken system

Councillors should proceed with caution, conscious of need to boost supply of affordable homes

As construction fully resumes this week after lockdown, the wrangle reflects divergent interests in a dysfunctional housing market. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

As construction fully resumes this week after lockdown, the wrangle reflects divergent interests in a dysfunctional housing market. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A torrent of objections to the 2022-2028 draft development plan for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown casts glaring light on the inner workings of the bedraggled planning system.

The county council’s draft aims to prevent excessive development, a laudable aim. But developers with large property holdings in southeast Dublin have lined up to demand far more residential zoning than the plan allows. They also want a loosening of apartment design guidelines and fewer height restrictions. Standing in their way is a new independent planning regulator, whose job it is to assess development plans. The regulator says the council’s proposal could lead to surplus zoned land and must therefore be scaled back, a prospect that fills some councillors with horror.

As construction fully resumes this week after lockdown, the wrangle reflects divergent interests in a dysfunctional housing market. Residents bemoan over-development. But many young people, trapped in high-rent accommodation, have good reason to believe that supply constraints will drive rising prices higher still, shutting them from the market. Social housing is lamentably scarce.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien wants local authorities to front-load the construction of new homes to confront the housing crisis. Renters seeking in vain to buy a home have no lobby group but their votes are electorally potent, as all parties know well. Yet O’Brien must also advance well-grounded national policy that strives to direct development away from Dublin into regions. That should be a little easier to realise now that working from home is the norm for many.

Such are the dynamics of the power play in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Councillors should proceed with caution, conscious of the need to boost the supply of affordable homes in an economic landscape fundamentally altered by the pandemic. If they don’t follow national and regional policy, the regulator can seek ministerial intervention. What’s more, they must take account of developers’ vested interest in an escalation of zoning. That should be obvious.

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