Other Policy Drivers of Supply Imbalances
In addition to the planning system factors outlined earlier, including reforms to planning legislation which facilitated housing development, the lack of a statutory basis for the National Spatial Strategy, and the capacity for local politicians to overrule professional determinations, a number of other policy settings, in addition to political culture factors, contributed to the spatial mismatch between housing output and population growth in rural Ireland.
Inconsistent Government Policy and Financial Incentives
In some cases, the National Spatial Strategy was undermined by the national government itself. For instance, in 2003, a programme to decentralise 10,300 civil service posts to 53 locations outside Dublin was announced by the finance minister. Although ‘balanced regional development’ was a stated rationale for the programme, in fact only a tiny number of the towns earmarked for receipt of ministries and government agencies were identified as priority areas for development under the National Spatial Strategy (Meredith and van Egeraat 2013, p. 4). Although the decentralisation programme was only partially implemented prior to its abandonment, it was instrumental in funnelling development away from urban centres.
A more significant policy contributor to the spatial mismatch between housing development and population growth was the system of tax incentives for housing development and refurbishment in selected declining neighbourhoods. Popularly known as ‘Section 23’ incentives, these were introduced in the mid-1980s and applied initially to inner cities. However, the incentives were gradually being extended to include the city suburbs, large towns and finally villages and rural areas. Research suggests that the incentives were successful in their early years, drawing development and higher-income residents into declining inner city neighbourhoods which had hitherto proved very difficult to regenerate (Norris, Gkartzios and Coates 2014). However, the decision to extend their lifespan and geographical focus was problematic. During Ireland's economic boom the incentives were less successful in achieving their aims and became associated with deadweight and excess housing supply particularly in rural areas.