Sustainable, Affordable and Cooperative Housing – the remedy to a bigger malady? Unpacking the Housing Agency's and Commission's take on sustainable housing targets. | Fieldfisher
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Sustainable, Affordable and Cooperative Housing – the remedy to a bigger malady? Unpacking the Housing Agency's and Commission's take on sustainable housing targets.



In recent years, the cost of rental properties has risen to unprecedented heights. Fuelled by post-covid inflation, the imbalance between supply and demand, as well as general market fluctuations, the Irish property market has seen an upsurge in residential property prices.

The Central Statistics Office has noted a 5.4% increase in the Residential Property Price Index (“RPPI”) in the twelve months preceding January 2024 alone. Sustainability in the housing sector nonetheless remains a priority, as has been highlighted throughout several reports produced by the Housing Agency and most recently the Housing Commission.

Some of the key findings of those reports are detailed below.

Social, Affordable & Co-operative Housing in Europe – December 2020

In its Social, Affordable & Co-operative Housing in Europe 2020 report, the Housing Agency, drawing on comparisons from other European countries, presented several factors that in general contribute to good housing. One of these factors related to whether the architectural structure of the building allows for flexibility of the design, considering the social, economic, environmental, and cultural necessities. Another factor underlined a general need for affordable housing schemes, balanced with the need for sustainability and high-quality durable buildings. Furthermore, the Agency also inter alia emphasised the need for community feedback in relation to housing design, a greater focus on shared facilities, and pre-fabrication where possible.

Examination of innovation/efficiencies in design of affordable housing – April 2024

More recently, the Housing Agency published another report examining innovation and efficiencies in the design of affordable housing, in which focused in particular on the Irish market. It featured case studies from Dublin, Galway and Limerick, with data ranging from small (up to 50 units), medium (50 – 150 units), and larger schemes (150 plus units). Additionally, the report drew on case studies from Austria, France, and the Netherlands for a broader comparison.

Through its research, the Agency found some common recurring elements that promote good decision-making and quality outcomes.

  1. It observed that an approach that leans on strategic planning and design, and one that is tailored to specific local challenges, is essential. This would allow for a shift from a generalised method to one that creates added value needed for each particular case.
  2. It highlighted the need for an approach that relies on a robust local governance or client champion. Ideally, this would include a multi-disciplinary team who are informed by community stakeholders.
  3. The economic and business side of any project must be comprehensive in terms of risks and opportunities, addressing both the costs and benefits, as well as the viability of schemes going forward.
  4. The Housing Agency also accentuated the importance of comprehensive and concise implementation methodology in order to guarantee the deliverability of larger multi-phased housing schemes.

The Report of the Housing Commission - May2024

In its 2024 annual report, the Housing Commission has supplied numerous recommendations aiming to contribute to a sustainable housing supply. Amongst these, the Commission has called for a Housing Delivery Oversight Executive body for the purposes of coordinating the delivery of housing, to be established through legislative means. It also called for an enactment of high-yielding Housing Delivery Zones, to be placed in strategic locations, to maximise the delivery of housing supply over a shorter-term period.

Establishing a Land Price Register to bolster transparency around land transactions and enforcing Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) with regards to policy measures was also high on the list. Other recommendations included making the economic sustainability a core element of policy objectives for delivering both public and private sector housing, ensuring diversification of financial sources, as well as enhancing the role of the State in funding whilst also reinforcing the powers and resources of local authorities to do so.


Whilst there is a need to meet housing targets and consider housing costs when it comes to building and planning, it is without a doubt possible to combine those targets with consideration for sustainability and affordability. As the Housing Commission highlights, these targets can be achieved in the Irish property market in particular through instruments such as those envisaged in its most recent report.

Written by: Joanna Bannon and Maria Podzegunova

Areas of Expertise

Real Estate