Majority favour taller buildings in urban areas, survey finds

Despite high level of objections, most people support taller, higher density development

Views of apartments at Capital Dock, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay,  Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Views of apartments at Capital Dock, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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A significant majority of people in the Republic favour taller buildings and higher density developments as a means to increase housing supply in urban areas, according to a new survey.

The study by research company Behaviour & Attitudes, commissioned by employers’ group Ibec, found that two-thirds of the adult population in the State supported the development of six to 12-storey buildings “in appropriate areas”.

This is in line with the default minimum height standard of six storeys set out in the Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines for Planning Authorities (December 2018), the report noted.

However, the survey of 760 adults conducted in April detected “a significant generational gap” in attitudes to building heights.

The proportion in favour of six to 12 storey buildings in appropriate areas rises to roughly three-quarters of those planning to purchase a home at some stage over the next 10 years. And, among those in the “pre-family” stage of life, support for building to those heights jumps to 82 per cent.

Commenting on the findings and their implications for housing policy, Ibec’s Aidan Sweeney said: “Building for height and density often attracts opposition from local homeowners. However, it is key to the sustainable growth of cities and is necessary for increasing housing supply in urban areas.”

He said local authorities across the State had taken an inconsistent approach to building heights. “Arbitrary height caps have often been imposed resulting in developments in Cork city being taller than those initiated in the Dublin City Council area,” he said.

“Worryingly, there is a lack of a common definition of ‘low rise’ in the Irish planning system. The research shows the public appetite exists to revisit the conservative policy of promoting low building heights across the country and, more worryingly, in our key urban centres,” Mr Sweeney said.

He said average building heights in Dublin are lower than in other cities across Europe, including comparable-sized cities such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Stockholm.

“Paris is regularly cited as an example of a city that is low rise. However, Paris’s building height average is 30 per cent higher than here in Dublin,” he said, noting the French capital also has double the population density through taking a consistent approach to development across the city.

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