The core thesis in Street Plans is the idea of ‘Gentle Density’. While requiring flexibility in the planning system, it is an idea whose time has come. It could develop into a solution that increases housing supply. It would certainly conform to many of our National Planning Objectives, particularly NPO 33 – Prioritise the provision of new homes at locations that can support sustainable development and at an appropriate scale of provision relative to location.Robin Mandal, Co-founder of the Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance and former President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland
Adopting the street plans proposal is a step toward tackling Ireland’s housing crisis. By fostering community collaboration, aligning demand with supply, and overcoming obstacles, this approach holds the potential to deliver much-needed housing solutions quickly and effectively.Alex Balfe, President, Maynooth Student Union
This report sets out in a systematic and well-researched manner an idea for addressing the restricted supply of housing in Ireland. This is a serious problem with huge societal costs and the ideas in the report are worthy of serious consideration, perhaps starting with one or more pilot projects that would test whether they could be scaled up more generally.John Fingleton, Chair of Fingleton, and former Chair of the Competition Authority
Ireland is in an unprecedented housing crisis. Empowering communities could offer a way to substantially increase Ireland’s housing supply. Inspired by international experience in South Korea, Houston (US), England, Israel and other places, such an approach would supplement Ireland’s current system and deliver more housing, by giving small areas the power to allow more development that meets their needs. This would encourage not just more development, but better development.
The key principles of the policy approach are:
- More housing where it is most needed
Street plans would enable more homes to be added in areas of high housing costs.
- Local democracy
Residents must agree on any proposals, which are subject to strict rules to protect other residents. Only when two-thirds majority are in favour is planning permission for the proposals granted for each plot on the street.
- Making housing ‘win-win’
Homeowners, tenants and the wider community benefit from street plans, meaning they have a reason to say yes to more homes near them.
Our street plan proposals have been endorsed by a wide variety of stakeholders including prominent architects, planners, economists, entrepreneurs and residents associations.
Founder of Ireland’s Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) Programme and author of the Community-led Village Design Toolkit
Street Plans have enormous potential to empower and enable communities by giving them a collective voice in pressing for more environmentally sustainable approaches to managing the built environment. Such approaches are required for the delivery of the New European Bauhaus and the UNSDGs. The concept could also support communities to create flexible design solutions to give much-needed life to vacant and derelict/abandoned buildings in Ireland’s towns and cities.
Managing Director, Hooke and MacDonald
Housing supply continues to fall far short of demand. Innovative policy solutions, such as street plans, may just help supply catch up with demand, ameliorating the crisis.
Professor of Economics, University of Limerick
This is a solid plan for an Ireland sorely in need of better ideas on how to fix its broken housing system. Giving residents a voice and a stake in the future of their areas is the path to a better built environment for future generations.
Chair, Somers Town Neighbourhood Forum
Planning concerns how we live. Where our homes are and what they look like. How we travel. Where we work. Where our families play. Why wouldn’t you put community at the heart of planning?
Irish Secondary School Student Union
Students are burdened with the stress of the housing crisis all over Ireland. Students are facing the harsh reality of putting their families under extreme financial pressure, just by trying to further their education and qualifications. This is particularly true for exam students who are living in emergency accommodation and find it difficult to focus on their studies. Leaving Certificate students have enough to worry about without adding on the stress of trying to secure affordable accommodation. The housing crisis is undoubtedly affecting students’ decision making on where to go to college or even if they can go. We are seeing an increase in the number of students deferring their courses, and a huge contributing factor of that is the price and availability of accommodation. This housing crisis is not only affecting students planning to move onto further/higher education, but it is affecting entire families and communities. The lack of affordable housing can impact a student’s mental wellbeing as they face not only high levels of stress, but also a socio-economic burden that can further marginalise them and reproduce social hierarchies. The Irish Second-Level Students’ Union is therefore in favour of the Street Plans policy and believes that it will benefit the second-level students of Ireland, along with the wider community.
Architect, designer and founder of the Netwell Research Centre at Dundalk Institute of Technology
The housing and health crises in Ireland are symptoms of a chronic detachment and divergence of our approaches to social, economic and environmental sustainability. Intergenerational living and ageing in place together really matters – and when respecting our ecological envelope, we have to learn to gently intensify, densify, and smoothly transform our communities and neighbourhoods to new forms and patterns of living. We need to develop and expand ‘inwardly’. At its core, street plans represent a simple idea suggesting ways that empower local communities to work together to intensify and transform their streets to be ‘fitter for our individual and collective futures’ – re-shaping embodied places that can energise, sustain and delight. Simple, not easy, but certainly worth trying.
formerly labour economist at Glassdoor, Fulbright Scholar in France, and senior research analyst at the New York Federal Reserve
The housing crisis is the biggest issue of our time. Without housing reform, people will be forced into ever more desperate housing situations. Providing real and sustainable solutions to the problem could help reduce inequality and unleash economic growth at a time when both are desperately needed. The proposals in this paper have been carefully developed and are well worth trying.
former Lord Mayor of Dublin
In Ireland, there is a serious housing crisis. During my 15 years as a councillor on Dublin City Council I supported building more homes in our city. The street plans proposal is a fascinating idea showing how we could build support from local residents for high quality housing development in their communities. Too often the voices of people who are open to new homes go unheard.
Economist, journalist, broadcaster and author of Home Truths
Street plans could help to diversify the supply of sites for housing, helping small builders to grow and breaking the hold of the big developers.
Dr Riette Oosthuizen MRTPI
Partner, Planning, HTA Design LLP
Street plans provide a creative alternative to increase housing supply. Developer-led housing models do not always address the housing need for those who want to downsize or start a family close to existing community ties; often internal layouts are a far way off the flexibility required for homes that grow with families over time. This model establishes the policy foundations and design rules for community led change to streets, neighbourhoods and housing typologies, which is a sustainable way for our neighbourhoods to grow and evolve.
Associate Professor of Finance, University of Northern Colorado, co-founder of the Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation
Street plans propose to build homes by engendering and empowering communities and matching actual demand to potential supply. And it is grounded in both ESG impact and empirical practices tried and tested around the globe. It’s that simple and that powerful. Ireland should do this. Now!
Director of the Urbanity Project, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
Across the anglosphere, renters and potential homebuyers are suffering from the effects of a housing shortage caused by land use restrictions that limit how much can be built. By working with homeowners who want to expand development rights on their own blocks, street plans provide an opportunity to slice through the political barriers to improving housing supply and affordability.
Co-founder and editor, Works in Progress at Stripe
This is the silver bullet that could solve the housing crisis – unlike almost all other proposals, this one works by enriching existing homeowners when they allow more homes to be built. The solution to this decades-long problem is to make it a win/win for people who own their own homes and people who want to.
Co-founder of the Dublin Democratic Planning Alliance and former President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland
The core thesis in Street Plans is the idea of ‘Gentle Density’. While requiring flexibility in the planning system, it is an idea whose time has come. It could develop into a solution that increases housing supply. It would certainly conform to many of our National Planning Objectives, particularly NPO 33 – Prioritise the provision of new homes at locations that can support sustainable development and at an appropriate scale of provision relative to location.
Alex Balfe, President, Maynooth Student Union
President, Maynooth Student Union
Adopting the street plans proposal is a step toward tackling Ireland’s housing crisis. By fostering community collaboration, aligning demand with supply, and overcoming obstacles, this approach holds the potential to deliver much-needed housing solutions quickly and effectively.
Chair of Fingleton, and former Chair of the Competition Authority
This report sets out in a systematic and well-researched manner an idea for addressing the restricted supply of housing in Ireland. This is a serious problem with huge societal costs and the ideas in the report are worthy of serious consideration, perhaps starting with one or more pilot projects that would test whether they could be scaled up more generally.
Innovation policy expert
The ‘street plans’ approach offers a clever response to Ireland’s housing shortages. If cities like Cork and Dublin want to stay part of the modern global economy they will have to work out how to address the housing needs of their workforce in places where demand is most acute, with the needs of local communities, while being sensitive to historic architectural traditions. Street plans will be a three way win-win-win solution.
CEO, Waterford Chamber of Commerce
There is an apparent lack of urgency in current housing policy to immediately deliver additional housing. The introduction of tax incentives to encourage the repurposing of upper floors of town and city centre properties to residential accommodation would be an excellent start. By encouraging the easing of planning restrictions on ADUs and introducing some urgently needed planning reforms, such as Street Plans and extending the existing planning exemptions, we might just begin to make a dent in the housing problem.
Associate Professor, Dublin City University and columnist at the Sunday Independent
The principle is a good one. And if even a small number of redevelopments go ahead, it would encourage others to try. If it worked, you could have local residents who are personally invested in redevelopment.
Professor of Economics, George Mason University
Spatial questions – town planning, zoning, housebuilding and so on – are some of the most difficult questions that politics deals with. Any decisions governments make about where homes and infrastructure should be built, or where people should live, involve difficult tradeoffs and a dizzying array of spillovers and externalities. This paper is rare in that it addresses that challenge head on, and comes up with a solution for building hundreds of thousands of new homes that just might work.
Founder of Trelis and Founder of Sandymount Technologies
Street plans provide a local way for communities to participate in, and benefit from, a solution to housing shortages. It is a positive-sum tool that can be implemented soon, and in parallel to other approaches to improve housing supply.
Executive Director of INTBAU
Walkable, mixed-use traditional urbanism has a crucial role to play in creating more sustainable and successful cities. Historically, this kind of urbanism often developed gradually, as places evolved to meet the changing needs of their inhabitants. This report outlines an important way in which we could let communities opt back into that process where they stand to share in its benefits.
Co-founder of Intercom
We are not making nearly enough progress against the housing crisis. Judging by the amount of objections to new developments, I question whether Irish society actually wants to solve it or not. The street plans initiative is an intriguing potential solution. It encourages local communities to have a stake in their own development, and requires broad local consensus. Similar implementations have worked in various locations around the world. This initiative could create more housing, enhance local environments, and empower local residents, making it a win-win for all.
Co-founder, The Fitzwilliam and Special Projects, Fuse
Economic opportunity for young people is inextricably tied to the cost of housing in cities. I’m excited that street plans tackle high housing costs head-on and incentivises small groups to build more. I hope we can implement it soon and evaluate its impact in Ireland.
Communications Manager, Stripe
Owning a home is a far-flung concept for many generations of Irish people. Street plans offer up a glint of hope that we can build our way out of the housing crisis.
Co-founder Aflorithmic AI
Ireland’s historic housing crisis calls for innovative and creative solutions. By directly involving communities in the planning process, street plans are an innovative way to increase housing supply and hopefully help solve the current crisis.
Dr Vera Kichanova
Researcher at Zaha Hadid Architects
Time and again, evidence proves that dense, walkable neighborhoods are healthier, wealthier, happier, and safer. And still, the anti-density sentiment persists in society — because so many, and above all our politicians, confuse density with overcrowding. This is why the ‘gentle density’ advocated in this report is such a valuable idea — it removes unnecessary political antagonism from the realm of urban development, transforming it from a zero-sum to a positive-sum game. Allowing residents to reap the rewards of their new powers to build more homes of better designs is an economically sound and politically feasible — and, indeed, gentle — way out of the housing crisis.
Head of Activation, Entrepreneur First
Creating higher levels of economic opportunity for more people depends on the founders and inventors of tomorrow meeting each other, their employees and collaborators, and the customers they serve. By artificially restricting the movement of individuals, scarce housing is the largest threat to this critical component of the engine of prosperity. Street Plans, with its focus on empowering local communities to grow on their own terms, is a creative, impactful, and thoughtful proposal.
Operations Director, Forage; Host, The Jolly Swagman Podcast
The chronic undersupply of housing in costly regions is a cancer afflicting many countries across the Anglosphere (including my own, Australia), though perhaps none more so than Ireland. Too often, much-needed supply has been stunted by a pernicious asymmetry in which the downsides of development are concentrated on local residents with the capacity and incentives to organise against them, while the benefits are dispersed over society only thinly. For decades, Irish NIMBYs have been presented with two options: fight for the status quo or accept inconvenient development by neighbours. Robert Tolan introduces a third alternative: petition collectively for ‘gentle density’ and share its rewards. His pragmatic proposal represents a genuinely multifaceted win for residents, renters, developers, governments and aspiring owners alike.
co-Director of PricedOut
These proposals offer a meaningful way to provide desperately-needed homes and improve housing affordability, in a way that gets around the significant political barriers to fixing housing problems. Policymakers should pay careful attention to this kind of win-win solution.
Street plans propose an important additional strand of housing supply, complementary to traditional development, that has at its core the empowerment and inclusion of local communities in shaping the identity of their local areas. This principle of densification, if implemented, could enable meaningful collective local action to meet the challenges posed by the housing crisis and the climate crisis.
Executive Director and founder, YIMBY Law
One way or another cities all over the world have to solve their housing shortages. For Ireland, street plans could represent an important part of the solution.
Dr Samuel Hughes
Research Fellow, University of Oxford and Fellow at Create Streets
Ireland has a great tradition of terraced ‘gentle density’ urbanism: the terraces of Dublin rival those of Bath, Edinburgh and Amsterdam as the finest in the world. Reviving that tradition can help to address the housing shortages that afflict many parts of Ireland today. By letting local communities allow streets to be redeveloped at moderate densities, numerous homes can be added where they are most needed, near to town centres and public transport hubs.
Micheal De Barra
Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Brunel University
Allowing our low-density streets in our towns and cities to evolve into rows of beautiful townhouses benefits everyone. With more families nearby, pubs, cafes, and local shops thrive. More children can walk themselves to schools instead of depending on lifts. Current homeowners add value to their plots – these could fit larger or more houses – while first-time-buyers benefit from more supply and lower prices. Street plans have huge potential to give people richer lives.
CEO Homebuyers Hero
This policy is a driver density and a short cut for property owners to cut out red tape and collectively work together to like the tide, raising all boats. Anything which reduces or removes perceived red tape and enables community champions as drivers of neighbourhood projects is a good thing. This, balanced with our derisking platform to enable single or contiguous sites for larger development to be brought to the market without risk, possibly even informing the entire neighbourhood plan such that communities can know that what they are planning has buyers even before they start any work whatsoever, is a potent partnership indeed. Homebuyer’s Hero stands ready to put a digital product based on this policy into the market. Keep it simple, keep transactions simple, keep certification simple and this will be a success.”
Benjamin Derbyshire Dip Arch Cantab PPRIBA FRSA HonAIA (he/him)
Chair, HTA Design LLP, Historic England Commissioner, and President, London Forum of Amenity & Civic Societies
Multiple ownership of small plots makes planned intensification of suburban housing development a challenge. However, the remarkable uniformity of plot size and building footprint presents an opportunity. HTA Design’s Supurbia proposal suggests the possibility of neighbours agreeing to mutually advantageous development envelopes or ‘plot passports’, by means of which higher densities might be achieved, funded from the release of equity arising from increased plot ratios. The idea was taken up by the British government in a ‘street votes’ bill presented in the 2022 Queen’s Speech, and I very much hope that the Irish Government can see their way clear to evolving similar solutions as an antidote to unsustainable urban sprawl.
Founder of Patch
Street plans have the potential to improve housing supply by creating win-wins and delivering gentle density where it would otherwise not occur.
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