herald

Monday 26 September 2016

We need to raise height of city apartment blocks, says Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Tom Burke
Minister Simon Coveney Picture: Tom Burke

Housing Minister Simon Coveney says he is "uncomfortable" with height restrictions on apartment complexes introduced by Dublin city councillors and wants to work with them to allow higher buildings as part of his efforts to tackle the housing crisis.

In May, Dublin City Council (DCC) voted to limit apartment complex heights in low-rise neighbourhoods in the city centre to 24 metres - or eight storeys - with a 13-metre limit in the suburbs.

That was despite city management seeking limits of 28 metres and 16 metres respectively.

Mr Coveney's department later made a submission to DCC asking that the higher limits be allowed in the Dublin City Development Plan, which is due to be voted on next month.

The minister was at the opening of 350 new student accommodation units at UCD when he was asked if he would issue a ministerial direction on the matter if councillors ignore his appeal.

"I want to work with the councillors," he replied. He noted that the housing challenges the country faces are "most acute" in Dublin, citing the homelessness crisis and affordability of homes.

"My approach is to try and work with people and to agree a way forward.

"I and my department was uncomfortable with the restrictions that many of the councillors were advocating.

Estates

"I'm not proposing that we build very high-rise apartment blocks in suburban areas in the middle of normal housing estates.

"But I am proposing that in urban centres in the city - where higher heights in terms of accommodation are more suitable to create modern high-quality urban living - then we should be looking to do that.

"Otherwise all the new housing units are going to be built on green belts on the outskirts of cities. We need more people living in the heart of cities in high-quality and, in some cases, higher buildings," Mr Coveney added.

He also responded to the latest Daft.ie report that showed spiralling rents in the city - with average monthly rates ranging from €1,272 in the north county to €1,735 in the south county.

"Undoubtedly this is in my view the biggest challenge for government is to ensure that people can find affordable housing whether that's in the rental market or whether it's buying new houses.

"First and foremost it's fundamentally about supply," Mr Coveney said. "The Irish rental market for decades in my view has been broken.

"It's either growing dramatically or collapsing dramatically ... We need a much more stable rental market where there is predictability and calm.

"But in order to achieve that, we need a significant increase in supply which I hope is what you'll see in the next two to three years."

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