The Irish government has unveiled plans to increase the number of apartments in cities through measures including an easing of height restriictions.
Minister for housing, planning and local government Eoghan Murphy also announced encouragement for more build-to-rent projects.
Business group Dublin Chamber welcomed the announcement and said that its research had found that constructing even one extra storey on a 1ha site would provide around 20 additional residential units.
Murphy said that while Ireland’s cities are growing as major centres of employment, they are not growing quickly enough as places to live in. “Today, we have nearly 100 cranes on construction sites in Dublin city centre but only about 10% of these are on residential development sites – why is that?” he said. The population of Ireland grew by 53,000 people in the year to April 2017, the largest increase since 2008. “With fewer than 1,000 properties available for rent in Dublin and similar low levels in all our other cities, there is not just under-supply, but a gaping hole in the supply of affordable accommodation (and rental accommodation in particular) in the heart of our cities.” he said. “Turning that tide means we simply have to deliver more apartments in our cities.”
He announced that a new process is being put in place that will, quickly, review and update the approach to setting urban building height limits. “We know that building cities outwards is a failed concept. We have some ridiculous restrictions on the effective and efficient use of scarce and expensive building land. The sprawl has got to stop,” said Murphy.
“We have restrictions where there are lower building heights for residential development than commercial – even on the same street. This makes no sense in normal times, never mind when we’re in the midst of a housing crisis,” he said.
Revised statutory guidelines on the process around development plans will be published before the year-end which will put in place a new evidence-based policy methodology for setting building height policy objectives in statutory development plans.
“Essentially, I intend to lift the numerical height caps in our city cores and along key public transport corridors,” said Murphy. “A numeric height cap is a planning restriction that no longer makes any sense in the context of proper sustainable planning, good design and the other contextual factors which planning authorities take into account. It is because of these other contextual factors applied by planning authorities that the removal of a numeric restriction will not be a free-for-all for high-rise, but will instead enable high-density viable residential development where it makes sense. And on densities – we have strong minimum densities, but these are not being enforced, so we will issue clarifications on this also.”
Dublin Chamber CEO Mary Rose Burke said: “A planning system which allows for the appropriate construction of higher and denser buildings is vital if Dublin is to be able to cope with the 280,000 additional people forecast to be living in Dublin by 2031. Allowing for taller buildings doesn’t mean that Dublin will become a city dominated by skyscrapers or that the unique architectural character of Dublin will be lost. Rather, it will allow for projects that will meet the needs of the future, add to the city’s built heritage and boost the local economy.” She added: “Dublin is currently a low-density city by international standards. Given the limited amount of vacant land available in the city, we must ensure that any future building maximises its potential. Building higher will ensure that we make the most of what we have.”