State needs to build ‘tens of thousands’ of apartments, Minister says

Building up rather than out crucial to resolving housing crisis, Eoghan Murphy says

Minister for Housing Eoghan  Murphy told the National Construction Summit the chronic shortage in supply at the root of the current housing problem was being addressed. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy told the National Construction Summit the chronic shortage in supply at the root of the current housing problem was being addressed. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The State needs to build “tens of thousands” of apartments to resolve the current housing crisis, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said.

He said the key to unlocking infrastructural bottlenecks in transport and housing was “compact growth”.

In cities, this means building up rather than out, Mr Murphy told the National Construction Summit in Dublin.

“We know that how we have built in the past – predominantly three-bed semidetached homes, sprawling around our cities, around our villages and towns, hasn’t worked for the country.”

One way the State can achieve more compact growth is by building apartments, he said.

Mr Murphy will introduce new planning guidelines in July, which will allow for higher apartment blocks with fewer windows, in a bid to promote higher-density building in urban areas.

“We have these arbitrary height caps on certain streets that make no sense,” he said, noting that on specific streets in Dublin “you can build commercial to a certain height but not residential”.

Mr Murphy also plans to remove the requirement to have car-parking spaces with certain apartment developments and increase the cap on the number of units that can be on a floor for every lift or staircase to lower the cost of building apartments.

Built to rent

These measures should incentivise the build-to-rent sector, he said, resulting “in more one- and two-bedroom homes to cater for the changed demographics we have in cities like Dublin”.

Mr Murphy said unlocking State and semi-State land would also be a key part of the Government’s housing strategy, and a new regeneration agency to identify and ready State land for development would soon be established .

He said the land bank around the Naas Road in Dublin was a prime example of “where the State was getting it wrong”.

While being an ideal area for housing – connected to the M50 and served by the Luas – it is used predominantly to sell couches, mattresses, cars and machinery, he said.

In his address, Mr Murphy said the chronic shortage in housing supply at the root of the current problem was being addressed.

He said there were 20,000 electricity connections to new-build homes and existing units in the 12 months to February, marking a 30 per cent increase on the previous 12-month period.

He also noted the most recent national quarterly accounts from the Central Statistics Office showed investment in residential construction increased by 33 per cent last year, one of the largest jumps on record.

The Minister also said the State’s social housing output was likely to treble this year.

However, critics maintain some of the Government’s social housing output comes in the form of private-sector rentals, and therefore is not adding to overall housing supply.