Demand requires 600,000 new homes over next nine years, says Ahern

ANOTHER 600,000 new homes will have to be built over the next nine years to meet housing demand it was claimed yesterday.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Noel Ahern said such large scale development presented a challenge for all stakeholders including the Government, despite record levels of construction activity in recent years.

Addressing the National Housing Conference in Santry yesterday, Mr Ahern said some levelling of supply was expected over the next few years after a record 93,400 housing units (including apartments) were completed in 2006.

Homes have been built at a rate of 1,600 each week in the first two months of this year.

Mr Ahern, who has responsibility for housing and urban renewal, warned that quality was a key issue in the construction of future housing, although he reassured delegates that the Government had the planning framework in place to deliver on its targets.

Despite concerns about the housing market, Mr Ahern said that first-time buyers would continue to benefit from recent moderation in property prices, along with income growth and increased availability of affordable housing.

Mr Ahern said he was surprised at how the recent cooling of house prices was portrayed negatively by some commentators.

“The recent trend is both predictable and welcome,” he stressed.

Mr Ahern also insisted that the effect of rising interest rates would be offset by mortgage interest allowances for first-time buyers.

“The Government are by no means complacent, but with a sensible approach by all relevant actors, we can look forward to stable and sustainable growth in the housing market,” he said.

The junior minister also launched his department’s new guidelines on housing design which include new recommendations on site selection, urban design, increased space standards and energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, the manager of Fingal County Council, David O’Connor called for greater co-ordination between planning and transportation in the development of new communities.

The National Housing Conference, organised by the Department of the Environment and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland on a biennial basis, continues today.

The RIAI Silver Medal for Housing was awarded yesterday to the Clarion Quay housing scheme at North Wall Quay in the Dublin Docklands area.

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