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Town Centre First: Varying supply

The development of ‘own door’ housing solutions in Ireland’s towns centres to address the demands of an ageing population is being planned as part of a multi-billion-euro investment to tackle vacancy and combat dereliction.

The percentage of the State’s population aged 65 or over is expected to dramatically increase from 14 per cent in 2019 to 26 per cent in 2051 and there is a recognition that amidst Ireland’s housing supply crisis, the enabling over older people to ‘rightsize’ their dwellings must be part of the solution in addressing demand.

In February 2022, the Government launched its first ever Town Centre First policy, within which it details support for development proposals “of varying character, scale and density” to facilitate the provision of a mixed supply of private, affordable, and social housing within towns.

Within the wide-ranging policy, which contains some 33 unique actions to give towns the tools and resources to become more viable and attractive places to live, work and visit, the Government acknowledges not only the underutilisation of many parts of the State’s town centres but also the existence of a limited variety of housing types.

“There are opportunities for infill development on sites which are underutilised, including large areas to the rear of existing buildings which is generally referred to as ‘back-land’ development,” it states, highlighting that new innovative housing models may enable more compact and adaptable forms of “own-door” housing to cater for a greater range of household types within the town centres.

“Developing urban centres that are ‘place’ focused with an appropriate mix of housing types will become increasingly important as the demography of Ireland changes,” it explains. “There is an opportunity for older people to choose housing that is centrally located within our towns and appropriate to their needs. This can help them to enjoy more active, healthy, and socially connected lives and to age independently and comfortably within their communites.”

It adds: “This will help people to choose the most suitable home to meet their needs and enable them to ‘rightsize’ as they move through different stages of their lives.”

The Town Centre First policy requires the delver of a tailored Town Centre First plan for each unique town, underpinned by a clear diagnosis of local strengths and challenges, which will be supported by newly appointed town regeneration officers and technical expertise within each local authority. Implementation will be supported by funds such as the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

As well as being underpinned by the National Planning Framework and Our Rural Future, the vision to develop thriving Irish towns, Housing for All also strongly supports the greater re-use and refurbishment of existing buildings as a policy objective.

Housing for All sets out the housing growth requirement each year over the next decade to move from 24,600 in 2022 to over 40,500 by 2030 and sets out specific pathways to address vacancy and efficient use of existing housing stock, reflecting the Town Centre First concept.