herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Fears of 'race to the bottom' over proposal for smaller apartments

Ciaran Cuffe
Ciaran Cuffe
Currently, some 85pc of Dublin apartments must have windows on at least two walls. That is adding up to €20,000 to building costs per unit

Proposals to reduce the minimum size of studio apartments in Dublin have been met with a mixed reaction.

The draft development plan for the city includes proposals to lower the minimum dimensions to 45sqm in some cases to tackle the housing shortage.

Green Party councillor Ciaran Cuffe expressed fear that the move could lead to a "race to the bottom".

"We need to be cautious about reducing standards. We all want to see houses being built, but not at a price," he told the Herald.

"I'm worried about a race to the bottom and my worry is that it may be a step backwards, but I'm willing to listen to advice from all sides. While we need housing it needs to be of a decent standard - we don't want another Priory Hall," he added.

Councillor Cieran Perry rejected the suggestion that the standards be changed.

"This is nothing short of an unwelcome and dangerous return to sub-standard and developer-led policies for housing, which will not serve the demands of families seeking homes," he said.

Current rules mandate that apartments must be at least 55sqm. Dublin City Council plans to lower the threshold in developments of just 100 apartments or more.

Windows

Developers must also provide on-site facilities such as a gym, laundry facilities or a common room if they are building the smaller studios. An easing of rules relating to windows is also on the table.

Currently, some 85pc of Dublin apartments must have windows on at least two walls. That is adding up to €20,000 to building costs per unit.

The council is proposing allowing this be reduced to 50pc.

Under the plans, the requirement to provide a car parking space per home could be removed on the condition that there is car parking available and if it is close to a public transport system.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has welcomed the proposals, which would help provide the type of housing "urgently needed".

Sinn Fein councillor Daithi Doolan, who chairs the council's housing committee, said that the proposals included in the plan would allow Dublin to tackle an "unprecedented housing crisis".

"We do not want a return to the boom-bust of the last 20 years. We need to have sustainable developments that lead to communities; that is why we defend our apartment standards. We will not reduce size or quality," he said.

"The adjustment on standards is not a simple solution but it is a major contribution. Now it's up to the developers."

The plan will be put to councillors in September and public consultation will follow.

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