Alan Kelly warns on return of urban sprawl if apartments not built

Smaller apartments would not reduce prices or increase the supply, says architects’ group

Dublin workers will be pushed back into commuting long distances to work if apartment construction does not get underway in the city, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has said.

Mr Kelly was defending new planning guidelines that require Dublin City Council to lower the minimum size of apartments that can be built in the city. The new rules set one-bedroom apartments at 45sq m, two-bedroom apartments at 73sq m and three- bedroom apartments at 90sq m – and introduce a new category of "studio" apartment at 40sq m.

The Dublin City Development Plan, currently under review, sets the minimum size of one-bed apartments at 55sq m, two-bed apartments at 90sq m and three-bed apartments at 100sq m and does not permit studios or apartments with a combined living and sleeping area.


The guidelines have been introduced to ensure apartments would be built in urban areas and that they would be affordable to construct and affordable to buy, Mr Kelly said.


“Virtually no apartment building has taken place in Dublin city under the 2011 guidelines so it is fair to ask why was this demand not being met.”

Cranes currently visible in the Dublin skyline were building offices as opposed to apartments, he said.

“Economic viability appears to be among the major issues. If building does not kick off in Dublin, then people will move to where it is affordable, which is in the commuter counties.

“Were that to happen on a large scale, then we would risk repeating the mistake of the boom, if the market only provides affordable housing outside of Dublin.”

Robin Mandal, architect and outgoing president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) said reducing the size of apartments would not cut costs or increase supply.


“In terms of increasing supply this won’t work, because the problem isn’t size, it’s that the finance isn’t there for people to build. If developers could get the finance they’d be building, the size of apartments wouldn’t be what makes the difference in that decision. Reducing the size does not reduce the cost, either to the buyer or to the builder.”

However, he said the RIAI agreed there was a need for “flexibility” and had argued to allow smaller apartments than the minimum permitted under the current city development to be built in Dublin.

“When we released our housing policy a few months ago we did call for some flexibility, and we recommended that in national space standards some units should be smaller, but smaller can’t be the average, it can’t be the standard size. In addition, flexibility is more important in existing units – in older buildings, where you can’t get bigger apartments.”

The quality of design was more important that the size of apartments he said; but, he said, there remained no guarantee that a smaller apartment would be offered to the market at a small price.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times