Unused planning permission for thousands of flats an opportunity for social housing, conference hears – The Irish Times

Unused building permits for tens of thousands of homes represent an opportunity for social housing, with the state now the “only game in town” for developers, a Dublin housing conference has heard.

Focus Ireland Chief Executive Pat Dennigan has urged the Government to reverse its decision to lift the ban on evictions until resources such as the 42,000 homes that have planning permission but are yet to be built are developed.

The “breathing space” provided by the ban, which is due to be lifted from the end of this month, has not been used to take action to increase housing supply, he said.

“At a time of such unmet housing needs, it is unfathomable to us that there are tens of thousands of houses, mostly apartments, that have gone through the entire planning system, are ready to be built, but not a shovel has been put in the ground.”

In Dublin, 42,000 apartments are waiting to be built, 23,000 of them in the city area alone, many of them as rental apartments. The state needs to look at their potential for social letting, rather than “turning the faucet on to homelessness,” Mr Dennigan said. “We need to look at this as an opportunity and a resource with tens of thousands of homes not started.”

Dermot O’Leary, Goodbody’s chief economist, told the Focus Ireland conference the unused building permit presents the state with a rare opportunity to secure housing quickly.

“There are very few occasions when you get quick wins when it comes to housing policy. Funding for these housing developments is as close as possible to a quick win and fits the government’s significant needs.”

The last time the state had a chance to “get its hands on” a major land bank was when the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) was formed amid the housing crash, he said.

“I think this is the second opportunity over the decade to do this. With funding difficulties and private sector profitability difficulties, government really is the only game in town, so it should seize the opportunity.”

Cóilín O’Reilly, head of housing for Dublin City Council, said the council has “a full list of all inactive building permits across the city” and expects some to make housing available from next year. However, he said that in some cases developers tried to offload unprofitable plans to the council.

“Some don’t work. It’s very important to find out early on what they are.” This is especially the case when “someone has overpaid for the land and thinks they can get the money back from the council,” he said.

He warned that these developments would still need to undergo financial due diligence, procurement processes, consultation and working with the Department of Housing. “Nobody wants me to meet up with a builder in a pub parking lot and cut a deal for 200 apartments.”

Michelle Norris, a professor of social policy at UCD, said the state’s repurposing of unused building permits could be significantly faster than the traditional public housing process, which has taken up to six years.

“No doubt there are implementation difficulties and no doubt there are political challenges in particular when it comes to bailing out the development industry, but I think when people come up on radio shows and TV shows and say the state should be concerted during the ban on evictions Take action to accelerate the delivery of social and affordable housing, should they be asked “like what?”

“I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think this is one of the few options that are readily available to us.”

https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/housing-planning/2023/03/07/unused-for-thousands-of-apartments-a-social-housing-opportunity-conference-hears/ Unused planning permission for thousands of flats an opportunity for social housing, conference hears – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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