To develop or not to develop?

Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy has attacked proposals before Ards Council to sell off tracts of public land for development believing they will be “flogged off for apartments”. He argues that the loss of amenities, damage to tourism and coastal erosion mean the proposals should be rejected. The arguments for the developments are it will generate income for the Council and making more development land available will impact positively on housing affordability. Are the tracts large enough to have the impact on the housing market claimed? Is it not “tourists” who snap up such apartments? Or is it a local councillor trying to make a campaign to save a local playground into a bigger story?

  • Nestor Makhno

    As Ards will cease to exist under the RPA – this may just be a short term attempt to fill the Council’s coffers and help reduce the rates slightly over the next couple of years. Making the Councillors look good in time for the local elections.

    Whatever the reason, Ards Council is not big enough to have the expertise or capacity to give proper strategic consideration to such development. Even if it had, any decisions it takes are dwarfed by those taken from greater Belfast perspective.

    It’s another reason why the RPA is needed. Current councils are too small to be effective strategic planners.

  • mnob

    The one thing driving prices higher is low interest rates over a long period of time *not* a shortage of development.

  • unionist

    One factor in northern ireland has been the failure of the soial housing providers to make up for the loss of housing executive property through the right to buy scheme. In many areas prices are being pushed higher by private investors buying property to rent. Social housing providers therefore cannot compete with private developers on land purchase.

    Two possible options include area plans which specifically identify social housing land public bodies such as ards council selling land to social housing providers basing their decisions on community needs rather than income generation.

  • Crataegus

    Mnob

    Agree with your comments regard interest rates helping to force up house prices, but at the minute the buy to let market is such that the investments are no longer self financing from rent. I therefore think there is a shortage of development land and a growing housing shortage.

    In parts of Belfast we have reached the ridiculous situation where every house garden and shop is being viewed as a development site. Factors at work are;

    1 Inability to let small shops due to the growth of out of town shops.
    2 Difficulty in letting upper commercial floors in many inner city areas.
    3 1 & 2 above coupled with the changes in the rating system whereby owners are liable for the rates on empty commercial property is forcing down commercial prices relative to residential. Commercial is being demolished to make way for residential.
    4 Rooker’s decision on Rural housing will reduce the number of houses being built in rural areas without offering an alternative. This increases the pressure in Urban areas.
    5 Family composition and reduction in family size and increase in the number of single occupants.
    6 The value of a house with a garden at say £350000 is less than that house as a development site if you can get say 8-10 apartments into the site.
    7 6 above destabilises areas as owners of larger Victorian properties have to ask do we maintain and repair our house or do we simply sell it off for? If we don’t the Smiths might and we will end up stuck in among apartments.
    8 Developers are buying property and demolishing it.
    9 Developers are approaching house owners on spec offering to buy their houses in some areas it is quite intense.
    9 Developments are being sold off plan which indicates either shortage or people buying with a hope to resell and gain. From what I hear from colleagues with more involvement in housing than I have that over 50% of new houses are being bought for resale. I would caution against this unless you have surplus funds that you don’t need as we have had sharp increases recently and it must level out with interest rate increases.

    The amount of land that the council is proposing to sell is a drop in the ocean to the overall demand.

    House prices will always be as much as people can afford unless there is over supply. As interest rates go up affordability will reduce but I can see demand for housing remaining fairly strong.

    With regards apartments I think there needs to be a clearer policy on size and location and height. If we want to turn our arterial roads into a northern Paris well lets go for it and set some decent minimum sizes for rooms and allow 7 or 8 storeys on the inner main roads but let us keep them out of established residential areas as they just don’t mix well. Also if that is the way we are going on the inner main roads let us set some sane design criteria so that the developments all start to fit together into something respectable when finished.

  • Crataegus

    Unionist

    As part of the planning approval process make developers include social housing in their overall developments. That also helps to address the them and us situations.

  • Bushmills

    Crat

    Spot on. Mixed housing comprised of some social and some private is the way to go.

  • juggler

    “Two possible options include area plans which specifically identify social housing land public bodies such as ards council selling land to social housing providers basing their decisions on community needs rather than income generation.”

    While there is no doubt that the Ards areas desparately needs more social housing with its huge waiting lists in the housing executive, I’m not sure the land being discussed is actually suitable for that purpose. Social Housing is most needed in Newtownards and Comber towns, building social housing on comparatively remote stretches does not help people looking for houses in town centres or within a reasonably distance of a town. Public transport and road infrastructure down the Ards peninsula would not support these proposed ideas. Donaghadee is a different matter but is that not part of North Down council anyway?

  • stan

    “As part of the planning approval process make developers include social housing in their overall developments. That also helps to address the them and us situations.”

    Good point, as long as its affordable social housing

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Perhaps, in the spirit of openness, the DUP could tell us that none of its donations are provided by developers, thus removing the suspicion that these decisions are influenced by non-political reasons?

  • Alliluja, or smth like that