Government delays next housing plan to seek updated population projections

Department of Housing says draft revision of National Planning Framework will be deferred until about June as it awaits further data

The Government has delayed publishing a new National Planning Framework (NPF) that helps inform housing requirements until it receives updated population projections.

The decision comes not long after Ministers were privately advised that an additional 120,000 homes could be required by 2030 as a consequence of faster-than-expected population growth.

The 2018 NPF is a document setting out “high-level strategic planning and development” for the country over the next 20-plus years, aimed at keeping pace with population growth. Its first statutory revision began last June and was due to be complete by April.

However, on Tuesday, the Department of Housing said the draft revision will be deferred until about June, as it awaits further data relating to demographics and population projections from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

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A special group comprising experts in spatial planning, economic and social development and environmental protection later submitted an overview report to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien which was published last September.

Progress on the review included contributions from various stakeholders such as councillors, industry, environmental organisations and social and community bodies.

However, despite next month’s looming deadline, critical data required to update the strategy is not yet available.

“The revision to the NPF is informed, to a significant degree, by census data, and the postponement of the census in 2021 due to the global pandemic resulted in the delayed publication of crucial census outputs relating to housing and demographics,” the department said in a statement.

Officials had engaged the ESRI to update its previous projections relating to population growth to 2040, which will also outline “projections relating to structural housing demand”.

The ERSI is currently finalising its research, with publication expected in April, but this will delay a draft revision of the NPF until at least June.

It is expected the process will then proceed to public consultation, followed by an amendment stage in August and the publication of a final document in September.

Last January it emerged that Government Ministers had been privately warned an extra 120,000 homes would likely be needed by the end of the decade.

A Cabinet Committee on Housing received projections of how anticipated population growth could affect housing targets, which had been criticised by members of the Opposition for being too low to meet demand.

The meeting heard previous estimates that the population would reach 5.7 million by 2040 might in fact occur 10 years earlier, and that the ESRI was now projecting in excess of 300,000 more people in the State in 2030 than previously anticipated.

Current Housing for All targets would see the construction of 33,000 houses a year up to 2030.

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