The right to housing is recognized by the United Nations, in Article 25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, along with the current rise in homelessness, an entire generation is at risk of never having a home of their own if the housing crisis keeps growing.
The crisis is a result of a number of factors combining in a sort of ‘perfect-storm’ which has taken years to form. One of the contributors to the lack of adequate housing is the planning system. The idea behind the planning system is to ensure proper development takes place and to protect our heritage. However the system does not always work in the way that it is intended.
The confinement of certain types of development on different areas of land, otherwise known as zoning, has a restrictive effect on the provision of housing. In Japan, for example, one can build a house almost anywhere you can find a piece of land, no matter the surrounding buildings or their uses. Of course separating certain industries from housing is a good idea, but relaxing the zoning system and allowing construction in more locations will increase the potential for development. Also in Japan, as space is severely limited, they often have to be creative to achieve the space they need in their homes. This requires a modern approach, one which is often refused when submitted for planning in Ireland, as it is too radical or out-of-place.
It is currently a requirement to provide a certain amount of social housing as part of any large development. However it is way too easy for developers to pay their way out of these obligations during the planning process, thereby maintaining their profit margins and their upper-class enclaves.
Reform of individual councils and a questioning review of the overall approach to the planning process are vital if we are to see the change that is now urgently required.
PHOTO CREDIT: Taken by me, overlooking Nelspruit, South Africa.