Housing crisis – a collapse in trust We can solve challenge only by working together
Sat Mar 25 2023 - 00:15 Sir, – The common thread in recent articles by Kathy Sheridan, Una Mullally, Sally Rooney and others is sheer frustration at the lack of a coherent approach to providing shelter for our citizens by those in power for the last decade. We can solve this by working together, before it destabilises us. An oversimplification of the reason for this incoherence is the economic collapse of the late 2000s. There was simply no market nor any finance available for housing construction in either the public or private sector. The solution offered by government and the public service was to attract international funding to invest in housing as a productive commodity in a low-interest rate environment. All our eggs were put into that basket. The State simply walked away from construction, committing instead to rental supports to the private sector. As a response to the needs of the construction sector and at their behest, laws were changed to facilitate them. These involved tinkering with financial regulation and planning regulation. The cumulative effect of this resulted in uncertainty, over-complication of the planning system and, finally, a collapse in trust in the whole process of planning. Ministerial planning directives took over from guidance, resulting in unpredictable planning decisions, which have served nobody. The resulting judicial reviews are symptomatic of a system which has failed. Fingers are pointed everywhere – residents, developers, lawyers, bankers, civil servants and government are all blamed. What has failed us is that only some voices have been heard. The reality is that we need them all to work together to provide the future that we need.
The Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance held a workshop in November that gathered a wide variety of voices, including citizens, planners, architects, financiers, academics and developers, all with deep interests in addressing how we can solve the challenges. Among the solutions were to re-establish certainty through development plans that could not be contravened; to decentralise the power of the minister of the day; to use local housing need to drive development; to re-establish funding models that work for all sectors; to increase densities appropriately for more liveable communities; to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss; and to ensure adequate resources for those tasks.
The Planning Bill, currently going through pre-legislative scrutiny, could be an ideal vehicle to facilitate those solutions and to bring simplicity and clarity to planning. As it stands, it will not. A rational public debate on this Bill should happen before it goes through the Oireachtas. – Yours, etc,
The Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance,