Government defends plan to ‘lower’ apartment standards

Government defends plan to ‘lower’ apartment standards

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and his department have defended moves to “lower” minimum standards for new apartments, despite widespread concerns being expressed, writes Daniel McConnell.

Mr Murphy and the Government have moved to reduce the minimum size of apartments, increase the number of apartments that can be built per development and remove the need for car parking for residents in central locations.

Under his plan, Mr Murphy also intends to increase the cap on the number of units that can be on a floor for every lift or staircase from eight to 12.

Opponents have hit out at the plans saying they will not address the housing crisis nor will they encourage developers to build.

“They are very disappointing,” said housing analyst Mel Reynolds.

“The overarching rationale for this should be affordability and affordability isn’t mentioned once. My impression is that it is trying to bring in a bit of flexibility into the market.

“The two short-stay solutions put forward here, build to rent and shared accommodation, there is no research or evidence to suggest there is a market for them.”

Mr Reynolds, speaking on RTÉ radio, said builders are holding off on developing now because they are awaiting the introduction of the new guidelines despite the crisis.

He added that the delivery of these short-term types of accommodation also has the impact of inflating prices for normal longer-term accommodation and making homes more expensive.

Lorcan Sirr, a housing policy lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), said the changes would put an emphasis on smaller units without any guarantee of affordability.

“They’re turning the planning system into a system to facilitate development rather than to balance the needs of society versus commercial needs,” he said.

However, the Department of Housing said the new apartment guidelines are just one of a suite of measures to encourage and increase the supply of homes.

“Under Rebuilding Ireland €6bn has been earmarked to provide 50,000 affordable social homes through a range of measures including building, acquisitions, leasing and regeneration/refurbishment during the period 2016-2021.

“We have already provided a new fast-track planning process for large developments and apartments to speed up decisions and provide greater certainty,” a spokesman said.

It added that funding of some €226m has been given over to open up housing lands through the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund for the delivery of 18,000 homes by 2021.

- Irish Examiner

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