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Ireland has a significant oversupply of housing units - but planning experts have warned we will need tens of thousands of extra houses to cope with a growing population. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Housing conference told: 'We'll need to build more new houses'

The National Housing Conference is told that the growing population will require 30,000 new houses every year from 2012.

A HOUSING CONFERENCE has been told that Ireland will need to build an average of 30,000 new houses per year for the next 15 years to cope with its growing population – despite the oversupply that already exists.

The calls came from Sherry Fitzgerald economist Marian Finnegan, who estimates that Ireland will need to construct around 26,000 housing units each year for the next five years if it is to cope with the growth in its population.

“The latest census figures show that Ireland’s population has risen to 4.58 million, and it is expected to increase to 5.1 million people by 2026,” Finnegan told the National Housing Conference.

Based on this population growth we can anticipate that there will be a need for an average of 30,200 new homes to be built per year over the next 15 years.

Finnegan believes construction will have to increase to around 34,000 units a year between 2017 and 2021, with 31,000 units being built thereafter.

Paul Keogh, president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, says the number of houses expected to be built in 2012 is only a third of the number that will actually be needed – and that the supply of empty units will not cater for demand.

“There is a perception that there are plenty of unoccupied housing units to meet the demand for new homes but that is not actually the case,” Keogh said.

The wrong place

“The main point is that a lot of the oversupply is in the wrong place – the projected demand will be in the main cities, starting with Dubiln and then Cork, Galway and Limerick, and there’s no substantial oversupply in those areas.

Unfortunately because of planning and tax designations in rural areas – in the Shannon and the midlands, for example – a lot of the oversupply has built up there.

Keogh called for a review of the National Spatial Strategy and a reform of forward planning, so that Ireland could adequately plan the creation of new schools and community infrastructure in areas where new housing would be required.

“We do need to plan for the future and ensure that we do have the homes available,” he said. “But oversupply is nowhere near great enough to meet that demand.”

It was urgent that planning begin on these as soon as possible, he concluded, because of the time between planning for housing developments and people moving in.

Separately, Housing Agency chief executive John O’Connor said houses needed to be priced based on the end value to the user and not based on market worth.

He suggested pricing houses based could be based on four times a person’s income, eight times an annual rental income, or a 15-20 per cent markup on the cost of construction.

A nationwide survey of unfinished housing estates published last October said that Ireland’s ‘ghost estates’ accounted for around 180,000 homes – with construction having started, but not finished, on 120,000 homes.

Read: Housing minister says 20% of empty homes to become social housing >

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