Housing is a fundamental societal need. The last housing crash resulted from an over-reliance on the private market to provide for the country’s social housing needs whereas we now know that government policy and engagement is needed.  In the late 1990s, the government introduced the Planning and Development Act 2000, which gave the planning system a more direct role in addressing housing provision and affordability by using planning gain mechanisms to deliver social and affordable housing.  However, in the decade to 2011, only 5,000 social and 10,000 affordable units were provided under the laws, representing just 3.8% of all dwellings – far below the anticipated 15% envisaged.

Part V of the Act was heralded as a key tenet of the country’s new housing policy. It introduced a method of capturing an obligation to provide social housing via planning permissions.  Seen as one of the most significant interventions by government in private property rights since the foundation of the state, the provision had two key strands: the provision of social and affordable housing units, and the promotion of social integration through mixed-tenure developments.  The government urged local authorities to be proactive in progressing agreements with developers under the Act to ensure the earliest possible delivery of units.

Despite initial optimism, the low level of dwellings developed represented just 13% of all new social units delivered in the same period. By 2014, the government concluded that Part V “as an option to replace traditional local authority housing provision with social housing had not worked for a host of reasons.”

Overall, we can conclude that the private market cannot be entirely depended on to successfully meet social and affordable housing needs. Only the state can reliably guarantee a sufficient supply of such housing, which we believe can be achieved directly through the local authorities, through voluntary housing associations or some form of national housing body.  Without doubt, the latest housing crisis should be a matter of renewed government policy and priority.

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Dave Coakley is a co-founder and director of Coakley O’Neill Town Planning and has over 14 years’ experience as a town planning consultant, representing both residential and commercial clients in Ireland and the UK. Contact Dave Coakley by email at dave@coakleyoneill.ie or by telephone at +353 (0)21 230 7091.