RIAI Publishes Housing Policy
Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Tuesday, 29th September, 2015: The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) today launched its Housing Policy to help create a framework to deliver sustainable housing solutions for a growing population with changing demographics and evolving needs. With the Irish population expected to grow from 4.7 million to 5.9 million in the next 30 years a new approach to delivering housing is required. The RIAI policy document focuses on four key areas: creating a framework for sustainable communities; delivering new housing models; improving the planning system; and protecting the consumer.
Policy 1: Create Sustainable Communities
With changing demographics the RIAI is advocating housing options that facilitate a lifetime’s choice of accommodation in a community (from single home units to starter homes and from family homes through to accommodation for the elderly) with appropriate infrastructural resources. This will radically improve social and cultural life, sustain schools, reduce commuting times and provide health benefits from greater levels of walking and cycling from local residents. Architect-led design and input into development plans will be needed to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past where a focus on single demographic housing output has led to the mismatch of supply not fit for market needs. The creation of ‘urban villages’ is also necessary to make greater use of vacant land/under-utilised sites available in metropolitan areas.
Policy 2: Deliver new housing models
The existing and current model of delivering housing has failed. New models are required to ensure starter homes can become more affordable, make long-term rental accommodation become a more attractive proposition as an alternative to purchasing, and to provide for adequate social housing.
Policy 3: Improve Planning System
To achieve maximum efficiency in the delivery of housing, Local Authorities should have properly resourced Architects’ Departments to assist the Planning Authorities in meeting the complex demands of delivering housing in the context of sustainable communities. Just as it would be considered unwise to build a hospital without input from doctors, the RIAI advocates having the skills of an architect deployed in local planning.
Policy 4: Protect the consumer
Consumer protection should be at the core of an appropriate system of building regulation as the current two-tiered system is not in the interest of public safety. Furthermore, while effective Building Control systems with a skilled workforce can greatly reduce the incidence of serious building failures, a system of redress is required for consumers to address problems in a timely manner without the need to resort to costly and lengthy litigation. Latent Defects Insurance is considered best practice internationally and used to provide this protection in other countries and RIAI calls for its introduction for Irish consumers.
In order to deliver on the policies, the RIAI has set out a number of key recommendations and actions required to achieve the overall goal of creating sustainable housing solutions for Ireland’s current and future housing needs under the headings of: Planning & regulation; Finance; and Capacity. The recommendations include:
Planning & regulation
- Standardising planning application requirements.
- Making the planning system more consistent across Local Authorities and An Bord Pleanala
- Allowing flexibility of Development Standards to allow for the re-use of existing buildings and encourage the retro-fitting of existing suburbs and centres.
- Introducing Latent Defects Insurance as a form of redress for consumers
- Revising rental market to allow for a better mix between ownership and rental and ensure market is developed to provide protection to both tenant and landlord.
- Using bonds, pension funds, REITs etc. to provide capital for housing developments.
- Utilising publically-owned land to develop housing models that are sustainable, community-led and affordable.
- Increasing supply of housing sites.
- Re-commencing apprenticeships in the building trades.
- Developing appropriate infrastructure to support sustainable housing development.
- Increasing supply of housing options.
Commenting on the launch of the RIAI’s Housing Policy, the Institute’s President, Robin Mandal said: “Housing is a basic need and a core responsibility of every society. The lack of long-term, sustainable planning has contributed to cycles of boom and bust, and ultimately the housing crisis we now face. The RIAI Housing Policy gives a range of innovative proposals which, if implemented, will create an environment that will deliver quality accommodation by creating places where people will want to live in a sustainable way that balances the needs of all people – young and old, families units and single home occupiers – whether they be urban or rural. We need to raise our ambition for the quality of our built environment.”
As part of its Housing Policy the RIAI has considered the current issue of homelessness and outlined immediate, medium-term and long-term initiatives to address the issue.
Speaking about the current issue of homelessness, Robin Mandal, President of RIAI said: “Everyone wants to eliminate homelessness and there is political willingness and public demand to ensure that every man, woman and child has a roof over their head. While a number of initiatives have been launched to address the issue, they lack a proper centralised, co-ordinated effort that is tasked, resourced and accountable for delivering a set number of housing units within a defined timescale. We need a depoliticised solution and the RIAI is calling for a taskforce to be appointed where it would be directly answerable to Dail Eireann that would be above party politics and would be required to report quarterly on progress against agreed targets. As part of their remit the RIAI recommends that the task force set up a form of ‘triage’ to cater for the most vulnerable first to fund and ring fence a specific supply of emergency accommodation with powers to vary rent allowances on a temporary basis to alleviate homelessness.”
Immediate actions required
- Taskforce appointed tasked, resourced and accountable for delivering a set number of housing units within a defined timescale directly answerable to Dail Eireann and would be required to report quarterly on progress against agreed targets.
- National audit of ‘void’ accommodation space under local authority control with refurbishment and re-inhabiting scheme initiated immediately.
- Active promotion of the ‘rent-a-room’ scheme to free-up some accommodation space to help increase supply.
Medium-term actions required
- Utilise NAMA controlled properties, ultimately owned by the State, to ease shortage of properties.
Long-term actions required
- Commence programme for Social Housing in accordance with Government Strategy.
The full Housing Policy document is available for download via the following LINK
For reference: Niall Quinn, The Reputations Agency (01) 661 8915 or (086) 827 4829