Planners in Kerry are struggling to overcome a growing 'housing divide' in the county, with the bulk of new private residences being built 'outside settlements', while towns are becoming centres of social housing.
The county is planning for a population increase of more than 9,000 people in the next decade — a growth that will see a need for 7,000 new homes.
Planners are keen to encourage private developments back into towns, a briefing on the county's new draft county development plan 2022-2028 heard.
After a plethora of one-off housing and holiday homes were built in the countryside during the boom, planning authorities had hoped to limit the growth of such developments in the county.
However, of the 1,840 new addresses added in Kerry between 2015 and 2020 some 1,079 or 59% were private housing and located outside of settlements, senior planner Damien Ginty told councillors.
To address the growing imbalance, a hierarchy of towns and settlements has now been drawn up and Mr Ginty outlined how the policy of the development plan is to strengthen the county's 71 rural towns and villages.
“A significant proportion of development in settlements is social housing. We need to strike a balance and encourage private developments inside small towns and villages,” Mr Ginty said.
The county has two key towns, Killarney and Tralee, so designated because of "their sub-regional context”, and already large populations.
Both have strong road, rail, and air links to Cork/Limerick and Dublin and they will see strong pressure for housing.
To tackle the pressure on rural areas around key towns, councillors were told that planners may recommend development nodes or small clusters of housing centred around wastewater treatment plants as an alternative to one-off rural housing.
Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae said private developers are simply not building, and that they are being constrained by lack of water and sewage infrastructure in zoned land in areas like Kenmare and in Beaufort.
“Even if people wanted to live in a town, the houses were simply not there or being built," Mr Healy-Rae said.
“There is a lack of availability of private housing for sale, and not everyone qualifies for social housing. It is simply not practical for everyone to live in a town.”
The plan is set to come before councillors again in November and will be published in early December.