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The approach to this demographic-based paper on housing comprises a demand-led perspective to spatial planning and housing provision. The principal arguments are that end-use demand is driven by demographic growth and that successful planning is predicated on sustainable market-led implementation. Accordingly, the thrust and direction of Ireland’s National Planning Framework (NPF) must be driven by rational responses to population projections, its growthdriver of job creation, and anticipating the primary locations of future employment and for city-led end-use demand. Since 2006 Ireland’s potential to invest in capital formation has been handicapped by state economic constraints. In the intervening decade its Fixed Capital Formation, or Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation (GDFCF), collapsed from 24 per cent of GDP to low single-digit figures of circa 3 per cent in 2013. Despite its recovery to date, the building industry continues to be under-funded and undercapitalised. A ‘normal’ national (public and private) capital spend is about 12 per cent of GDP, about twice the current annual level of output.2 There is emerging evidence of a slow, albeit sustained, recovery path. However, current housing output is still only a fraction of the 96,000-unit output achieved at its 2006 peak, and is insufficient to meet current demand. This paper argues that future growth in inward migration will respond to the overall growth in the labour force; for example, to augment Ireland’s chronic building industry labour requirement;3 to provide the necessary healthcare personnel, for the growth in population and especially for the projected increase in its older-age cohorts; and in response to the opportunities arising from new types of ‘work’. It is contended that a repeat of the significant precedent of demographic growth, averaging nearly 80,000 per annum in the 10 years to April 2009, must again be anticipated during the period of the NPF to 2040. Should the current growth trend, which commenced in 2015, continue to gain momentum as Ireland’s economic recovery strengthens, Ireland will need to be prepared for much higher levels of population increases than those narrow variations conservatively projected in the NPF. For many years, the National Economic and Social Council (2004) and others have pointed to the threat to Ireland’s future competitiveness unless adequate, affordable accommodation can be provided, especially in those areas where employment growth is occurring. As so much of that growth is city-based, the argument for city-led growth is well grounded. This paper argues for the provision of adequate housing supply to cater for the return of such demographic growth. It also contrasts where the state’s stock of housing is located as against where it should be located, having regard to the geography of both current and likely future employment and the need to reduce average commute distances and times.
Hughes, B. (2018) Demography is destiny: Strategic planning and housing in Ireland. Administration, Vol. 66, No. 2, 2018. pp. 153-177. doi: 10.2478/admin-2018-0022