A Cork-based property developer has said he has not seen a housing crisis like the current situation in his 40 years in the business, and has proposed emergency measures aimed at increasing supply in the short to medium term.
Michael O’Flynn said the price of land is making it uneconomical to build new homes, and said local authorities should be empowered to temporarily zone specific sites in identified areas for residential development if both the landowner and the builder commit to introducing finished units within a specified timeframe.
Mr O’Flynn told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 that his proposal would not involve rezoning swathes of land, but identifying appropriate areas in which sites could receive planning permission on condition that affordable housing is built by a strict deadline.
“The local authorities must designate this land, so we’re not bypassing any development plan structure by fast-tracking it because we have an emergency, the crisis going to go on for years, we need 45,000 to 50,000 units,” said Mr O’Flynn.
“I would reckon at this point in time there is no prospect of that happening under any current strategy. We have good future strategies, we’ve no current strategy so what I’m saying basically is let developers and landowners come together with proposals that involve social, involve affordable, and involve a pricing mechanism that actually brings down the price of houses.
“This is land that would be identified by the local authorities in the [rental] pressure zones, as likely future zoning. But the key is you do not zone it, you do not add to the zoning situation. Because the zoning scenario in Ireland hasn’t served us well, because if it did we’d have land at affordable prices where we could build more houses.
“So what I’m saying is you only deem it zoned for the purpose of the fast-track planning legislation at that point where there is a developer, landowner and a plan to deliver and if a builder doesn’t deliver it’s gone. It’s not that the land is zoned anyway, not that the land has planning anyway.
“I think if this mechanism that I’ve proposed — and I’ve put into government for some months now — if this happens I think it will shake up people sitting on zoned land. It’ll certainly shake up people sitting on hoarded land.”
Mr O’Flynn said there Vat issues and other issues would help the cost base.
“But land is the one thing that if there’s active land management and if there’s a policy to execute that sharply, we can bring down the price of houses,” he said. “But we in the developer community can only do that if there is a buy-in from government, a buy-in from local authorities and an acceptance out there that whilst there is a good future strategy in terms of the National Planning Framework, in the next number years, unless we take an emergency measure like I’m suggesting, this housing crisis is going to get worse.”