Slashing building standards and undermining the planning process has not fixed the housing market. All it has achieved is greater dysfunction.
Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall today introduced a Private Members Bill to the Dáil to overhaul planning laws which have become a developers’ charter under successive Ministers.
“Planning laws have become a developer’s charter due to the intervention of successive of Housing Ministers. This assault on building standards began in 2015, when Labour leader Alan Kelly reduced the minimum size of apartments and authorised a return to shoebox apartments.
“Next, Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney introduced Strategic Housing Developments, a fast-track process for large projects that was drafted in its entirety by the construction lobby, while his successor Eoghan Murphy removed height limits – and with them the discretion of planners in local areas.
“We were told these changes were necessary to boost supply and make housing more affordable. But the result has been lower quality housing at vastly inflated costs. Today, prospective home buyers in Dublin need an income of €100,000 to afford even the cheapest two-bed apartment. Is this what successful housing policy looks like?
“A large part of the problem is the SHD process, which was supposed to be a panacea for a housing market that was chronically undersupplied. As it stands, the SHD process has been a success at only one thing – boosting the value of developers’ sites, not housing stock.
“Of the 110 SHDs in the Dublin region that have been granted planning permission since 2017, construction has started on fewer than 30pc of sites. Developers’ reticence to proceed from planning permission to construction was evident even pre-pandemic. In fact, a “use it or lose it” provision, to stop developers hoarding planning permissions, was supposed to be introduced by the Department of Housing last year – but never materialised.
“This sustained attack on the planning process has made a mockery of development plans and damaged confidence in the planning process. Those wishing to appeal SHD planning permissions must take a judicial review – a hugely costly option that is out of reach for most ordinary people. It is notable that, of the judicial reviews that have been taken since the SHD process began, a majority have been successful.
“Slashing building standards and undermining the planning process has not fixed the housing market. All it has achieved is greater dysfunction. My Bill seeks to undo this damage and restore quality, discretion and oversight to the planning process.
“The Social Democrats want to address the housing crisis, not with shoebox apartments that are priced out of the reach of ordinary workers, but with high quality, affordable housing that promotes sustainable communities.
22 April, 2021