Bedsits to return as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy plans raft of measures

The Government wants to reintroduce bedsits as part of a raft of measures to combat the housing crisis.

There has been a mixed reaction to the plan, due to be announced by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in the coming weeks.

Bedsits were banned four years ago over concerns that landlords were renting dilapidated, run-down accommodation that was inadequate for modern habitation.

At the time, there were around 5,000 bedsit-type properties and while all of these may not be put back into use, the Government hopes the relaxing of rules would help ease homelessness.

Labour dubbed the move “regressive and wrong” and said it wouldn’t contribute to resolving the housing emergency.

“The bedsit is not a healthy option for accommodation and thousands of people were condemned to cramped, unsanitary conditions before their abolition in 2013,” said Joe Costello, the party’s urban regeneration spokesman.

He claimed the reintroduction of single-unit accommodation with a shared bathroom would ensure that another generation of single and mainly elderly men and women will be condemned to a lifetime of poor quality, cramped accommodation.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said a return to the bedsit would be a retrograde step.

“The reality is that this type of accommodation is predominantly used by vulnerable families and individuals,” he said.

“Low-income families, migrants, people with mental health issues, and those with complex needs would end up being trapped for long periods of time in substandard, cramped, bedsit-type accommodation.

Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne said his party is open to options as long as measures don’t lead to regressive housing standards.

The Irish Property Owners Association welcomed, with cautious optimism, the proposed action to allow bedsit accommodation.

“This is not a call for any type of substandard accommodation,” said chairman Stephen Faughnan.

“The banning of good quality, affordable accommodation because there was no integrated bathroom was a huge mistake. The damage already caused to the private rental market by this ill-thought action will now be impossible to reverse, but we can try to make up for it in some small way”.

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy has updated the Cabinet on various other measures he is planning to announce in a bid to combat major housing shortages across the country.

The Department of Housing has now promised to put 130,000 housing solutions in place between now and 2021.

This would include a mixture of the construction of more social housing, bringing back empty and vacant homes into to use, and using private housing through supports such as the Housing Assistance Payment.

Mr Murphy has been reviewing the Rebuilding Ireland scheme introduced by his predecessor as housing minister, Simon Coveney.

He will now be announcing changes and new measures as and when they are decided upon rather than waiting for all housing-related changes to be decided on.

Along with the reintroduction of bedsits, it is understood that Mr Murphy will move to reduce the number of carpark spaces in new developments; reduce the current 55 sq m minimum requirement for an apartment; and increase permitted building heights in cities such as Dublin.

It comes as the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has warned that a decade-long housing crisis is looming unless the Government implements a range of radical and potentially unpalatable policies.

The society said that current new-build projections — 17,000 for 2017 — added to the cumulative undersupply of the past nine years means it will be 2026 before the country is building the 35,000 new houses per annum which the ESRI estimates is required to meet demand.

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