Dublin failing to rise to challenge of higher-density housing
Capital’s accommodation may lose out on opportunities to lure Brexit business
Minister for Finance Simon Coveney, with Brian Moran of Hines Ireland and cathaoirleach Cormac Devlin, at the launch of building plans at Cherrywood, Co Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Rents in the private sector are now rising faster than at any time since daft.ie started tracking them in the Celtic Tiger days back in 2002. The average annualised increase in the fourth quarter of 2016 was 13.5 per cent. Only in Connacht did increases not hit double digits.
At a time when housing infrastructure is becoming ever more of a political football, it is but one signal of the State’s dysfunctional policy in this area.
The data comes just one day after it emerged that Ires Reit, Ireland’s largest private sector landlord, had to have a rethink of a landmark project for almost 500 apartments in the south Dublin suburb of Sandyford after feedback from planners in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.
Planners argue the 14-storey blocks are too high, too close together and not in keeping with surrounding developments. Ires Reit has resubmitted amended plans.
Leaving aside the individual scheme in Sandyford, it is crystal clear that Ireland – and Dublin in particular – cannot continue to work to the planning template that has been used to this point. Preserving Georgian Dublin is one thing but the urban sprawl around Dublin is eloquent testament to the failure of our low-rise model.
Higher-density housing does not mean poor housing – or former minister Alan Kelly’s matchbox apartments. It is perfectly possible to build apartments to exceedingly high standards. It happens elsewhere in Europe all the time.
What we really need is a change of mindset, a change of culture.
Several analyses have already warned that failure to provide sufficient quality accommodation in the right places is among the greatest threats to our ambitions to attract UK-based business in the wake of the Brexit vote. The issue has been cited both by banks and by those in the pharma sector hoping to tempt the European Medicines Agency to Dublin from London.
The failure of government – central and local – to adjust to the planning requirements of a modern European city may yet see Ireland bypassed in the opportunity presented by Brexit, leaving us only with the economic challenges. On housing and planning, the time for talk is long past.