Architect’s body calls on Government to align fiscal and planning policies in Budget 2021 to unlock housing delivery in towns and cities

9 Oct , 2020  

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is calling on government to use Budget 2021 to accelerate the delivery of housing in cities, towns and villages.

The RIAI is highlighting that sustainable urban developments, such as ‘living over the shop’ and infill apartment schemes, are far more expensive to deliver than traditional development i.e. building houses at scale in greenfield sites. The Institute maintains that this is the primary cause for residential space on main streets in Irish towns and cities remaining vacant, and why apartments cannot be built and sold at affordable prices. However, they point out that while upfront delivery costs of compact growth are higher, all other public costs, such as environmental impact, public transport, services & infrastructure, are much lower, reducing the public investment required.

Claire McManus, RIAI Council Member and Spokesperson on Housing, said: “Changes to planning policy has led to increased housing densities in planning permissions being granted. We are seeing much needed growth in apartment planning applications – 20,000 applications in 2019 vs 9,000 in 2018. However, we don’t believe enough of these applications will proceed to development as they cannot be delivered for affordable prices. This is down to a conflict between two government policies:

  • Planning policy which encourages all types of housing within cities and towns benefitting from existing amenities,


  • Fiscal policy which penalises apartment (or compact) development on sites when compared to traditional housing.

“Currently a medium density development consisting of 5-6 story apartments attracts 5 times more tax than if the site was developed for houses. We are asking for is a commitment from Government to resolve this conflict by correlating the taxation income generated per site area to the costs to the State of infrastructure, services, public transport, and environmental impact. To date, the State has not addressed the dual challenge of insufficient houses being built and affordability issues for first time buyers and young families. It is within the power of Government to use fiscal policy, specifically taxation, to address these challenges and deliver much needed housing.”

Proposals from the RIAI to deliver more homes in towns and cities include:

•                     A review of VAT on apartments built in areas where there are existing amenities

•                     A Help to Buy scheme focused on first time buyers and families buying apartments close to existing amenities.

Such schemes would only apply where homes are sold at agreed upon affordable rates

Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO said: “Practising architects are at the frontline of tackling the problems of design, build, sustainability, and how communities are served by amenities and infrastructure.  We want homes that put people at the centre, ensuring shorter commutes, better services, improved housing mix, and a real potential for strong, sustainable communities. These are homes that will both have a lower impact on the environment and that will benefit the public purse due to lower costs of servicing.Key to delivering quality homes and buildings, infrastructure and public realm will the availability of the professional expertise within the public service – architects are needed at senior levels across both central and local government.”

The full RIAI Budget 2021 submission is available here.