Fast-track housing slow to take off

Construction has started on fewer than half of the large-scale housing and apartment schemes approved under the Government’s fast-track planning scheme.

Fast-track housing slow to take off

Construction has started on fewer than half of the large-scale housing and apartment schemes approved under the Government’s fast-track planning scheme.

Analysis of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) scheme indicates that it is likely to be several years before most of the homes planned are actually available for occupancy.

Since July 2017, applications for planning permission for housing and apartment developments of more than 100 units and student housing developments of more than 200 beds are made directly to An Bord Pleanála.

This is designed to speed up the development process and increase the housing stock in the country. The planning authority has 16 weeks to decide on any applications, once they are submitted.

As of September 19, 2019, there had been 122 applications made via the SHD scheme. Of these, one was withdrawn and 25 have been refused. There have been 64 approvals and more than 30 plans are awaiting a decision.

Detailed analysis of the proposals in the scheme by CIS Ireland, a leading provider of construction activity intelligence, analytics, and project leads, shows that just 20 projects are currently on site.

While the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government claims that commencement notices have been filed for 23 schemes, many are still in the very earliest stage of their development and more than half of those approved have not commenced construction.

If all of the schemes currently on site are completed in their entirety, they would deliver 2,919 houses, 2,505 apartments, and 4,229 student bed spaces.

This includes 765 houses and 166 apartments in Cork, as well as 255 student beds. In comparison, Dublin will see 726 houses, 1,536 apartments, and more than 3,000 student beds, while Kildare will see 923 houses, 395 apartments, and 483 student beds.

Plans have been approved for an extra 2,435 houses, 7,836 apartments, and 3,191 student beds which have yet to start work, while decisions are pending for more than 2,300 houses, 7,780 apartments, and an extra 1,011 student beds.

In its latest progress update on the scheme, An Bord Pleanála confirmed that it had adjudicated on all proposals within the mandated 16-week time frame.

To date, not one scheme has finished and, in fact, the majority of those that are under way have only commenced work in the last 12 months. Some of these are still at the enabling stage of the projects, meaning that completion dates could be some years away.

Of those that have progressed beyond enabling works, the majority are being completed on a phased basis, as is normal for large housing developments. However, in many cases, it could be 2022 or later before large numbers of homes are injected into the country’s housing stock.

CIS Ireland’s analysis also showed the regional imbalance of the scheme to date. Almost three-quarters of the 122 applications are proposed for the Dublin commuter region and, to date, construction has taken place in only five counties: Cork, Kildare, Dublin, Meath, and Galway.

Currently, there are plans for more than 5,500 apartments for Dublin alone pending a decision. The scheme is designed to expire at the end of this year 2019, though this can be extended for a further two years to the end of 2021, “subject to a review of its operation and effectiveness”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said that the SHD scheme is designed to “significantly speed up the planning decision-making process, thereby providing greater certainty for developers in terms of the time frames”.

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