It can also be a moderating influence to create broader housing affordability, he believes.
Cost-rental homes should be targeted at moderate-income households that experience financial difficulty in accessing housing or meeting the on-going cost of accommodation.
And this type of development would complement an ongoing social housing supply to ensure no-one gets left behind when it comes to having a secure and stable home.
O’Connor identifies four key elements for future housing strategy:
- delivery of housing by the public sector including social housing, cost rental and affordable purchase,
- development of a cost rental sector (to provide affordable rental housing),
- utilisation of State lands for housing,
- delivery of housing by the development sector including rental housing and home ownership.
The public sector must start building homes on a large scale, using a mix of social housing, cost rental and, where appropriate, affordable purchase housing, he says, by actively using State land to deliver public housing,
To do this, the master planning of development will be crucial.
This will involve developing roads and infrastructure to allow parcels of land to be released and developed in turn, similar to the master planning for Adamstown and the Dublin Docklands.
The Housing Agency wants a National Housing Policy and Plan agreed with a 20-year implementation period, a successful ‘housing for all’ model in countries such as Austria, Sweden and Denmark, which keeps accommodation affordable.
“The urgent need for homes remains and Ireland must do all it can to meet this need through the building of public housing on a large scale while supporting broad delivery by the private sector,” O’Connor says.
He points out that a pandemic-induced downturn will differ from the 2008 crash, which was largely fuelled by a property bubble.
“Continuing construction creates jobs and helps address the social housing needs felt by our most vulnerable people, who in the past have unfairly felt the brunt of economic crises,” he says.
And the psychological toll of mortgage arrears continues, he said and the negative equity struggle must not be repeated.
The Housing Agency boss also believes that cost-effective measures can be found to make homes climate friendly.
“There are three elements to this; where we build housing, having appropriate housing density and building the right types of homes,” he said.
Sustainable quality standards, such as the Irish Green Building Council’s Home Performance Index, must be implemented for all State-funded residential projects.
O’Connor continues that sustainably placing housing in cities and towns can substantially reduce our carbon footprint.
“Reducing our reliance on private cars by locating homes close to public transport and essential amenities will improve quality of life while contributing to a sustainable future.
Ireland’s Climate Action Plan has set an ambitious target of retrofitting 500,000 existing homes and improving their performance so they have a Building Energy Rating (BER) of B2.
This means banning the installation of oil-fired boilers from 2022 and gas boilers from 2025.
Economies of scale
A new delivery model for retrofitting will examine grouping large numbers of houses together to achieve economies of scale.
The coordination and cooperation of local authorities, approved housing bodies and other important stakeholders will be crucial to achieving these goals.
And future construction projects can incorporate biodiversity into their projects with open green areas that are allowed to grow wild.