Thursday, 22 September 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I welcome the Minister to the House. The matter I raise is a continuation of a similar theme. Getting the maximum number of people housed is the issue.
Housing for All, the Government's multi-annual, multi-euro programme, is aimed at improving Ireland's housing system and delivering more homes for all types of people with all types of housing needs. We are all aware in this House that housing policy is undergoing a period of immense reform. We are also in agreement that such reform is necessary to prevent the housing crisis from being exacerbated in the years ahead.
Few would disagree that Ireland's planning system is excessively complicated and burdensome. In fact, it is for that very reason that my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, is setting out to reduce the legal red tape that is hindering the construction industry's ability to accelerate the development of thousands of new homes. I call on him to continue the acceleration of that process, which I know he will do. One must condemn nimbyism in these Chambers. Everyone must see the bigger picture in these times of difficulty.
To develop more much-needed housing, it is essential that our planning system is aligned with the Government's housing delivery objectives. It is imperative that we get this right. We can have the best intentions, but if the practical implementation of current planning guidelines make certain developments unviable, that needs to be examined. A key goal in both the national planning framework and the national development plan is the compact growth of cities and towns in a way that creates more attractive places to live and work, preventing urban sprawl. We have all heard the anecdotes of apartment developments that have been granted planning permission but are not being built because they are unviable. A strong case can be made for the construction of apartment buildings in our cities - I believe they should be higher but we will come back to that later - and much less of a case can be made for those same units being built outside of our cities. This is the difficulty faced in some of our commuter towns. We are building apartments to adhere to the planning density regulations but demand is not there for those apartments. The apartments cost an average of €450,000 to build compared with €300,000 for a house. Therefore, there is the whole issue of unviability that needs to be looked at.
In some instances, apartments are being built in suburban developments not because they are attractive to owner-occupiers, but because they are necessary to bring developments in line with planning density regulations. Without them, developments would not reach the required density and, therefore, we need imaginative responses. We need smaller houses based on the continental model. Family size and cultures change and that should be reflected in housing size, without going at it radically.More supply is the only way to meet the high level of demand that exists for housing. We need to examine ways to introduce a more streamlined planning approval process with a set timetable on the part of An Bord Pleanála and to take measures to address the current backlog of planning appeals. The current practice is bizarre. Does the Minister of State, on behalf of the Minister, believe that changes to planning guidelines and regulations concerning house design, site layout and density would assist in the availability of housing? It comes down to increasing planning system efficiency to increase availability.
I have other points but in the last minute I will come back to the review under way in the Department. How is that progressing? We must look at the whole design, the green areas in front of houses, more allotments for individual families, as well as smaller pitches perhaps, that is, the complex changes there that would utilise space better. I look forward to the Minister of State’s response.