Financialization, real estate and the planning system: Utilizing ‘Commercial Viability’ as a policy narrative for the liberalization of Ireland’s Post-Crash Planning System

Authors: Richard Waldron*, Queen's University Belfast, Declan Redmond, University College Dublin
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Financialization, Urban Political Economy, Ireland, Housing Crisis
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: St. Charles, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing upon the case of Ireland, this article explores the interaction between the financialized economy and the urban planning system in conceptual and concrete terms. While a considerable literature has considered the financialization of real estate, it remains unclear how planning systems are being repurposed to facilitate a finance-led regime of growth in and through the built environment or how the real estate/ financial complex seeks to enact planning policy transformations that support its positional interests. To address this, we examine how an epistemic community of financial and development actors have advanced the concept of commercial viability as a means of influencing the post-crisis re-regulation of Irish planning policy. This group has successfully argued that housing construction in post-crash Ireland is economically unviable given the high cost of development finance, onerous planning gain contributions and the lack of development certainty in the planning process. As such, housing construction has been at an all-time-low, leading to a new crisis in the provision of affordable housing. In response, a complicit State has enacted a dramatic liberalisation of the planning system and created new sources of stimulus for developers, often at considerable cost and risk to taxpayers. Empirical findings, based on semi-structured interviews with developers, lobbyists and planners, emphasise the importance of informal access to policymakers, the performative wielding of “expert knowledge” and econometric modelling and media management to co-opt the State into adopting financial logics and rationales within its planning decision-making apparatus.

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