Almost 13,000 homes in Dublin City are predicted to be affected by extreme coastal flooding if climate change continues at its current pace, the head of the environment watchdog has said.
Currently, about 600 homes in the capital city are at risk of coastal flooding but as sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, it is estimated that the number of affected homes will increase to around 12,848.
Laura Burke, director general of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the resilience of housing stock in the capital will be tested as the weather gets more unpredictable.
“What we’re now saying is, you used to worry about a small number of properties, well everyone of those 600 houses is a big issue for them, but now up to 13,000 houses in Dublin alone could potentially be impacted by a one in 100 year storm,” she said.
“But the other problem with one in 100 year storm is that they’re no longer one in a 100 years anymore, they’re more frequent.”
While she acknowledged that it is impossible to predict how fast the climate will change, or how frequently storms will occur, it is “inevitable” that more homes will either be destroyed or experience flooding.
She said all local authorities are being requested to develop adaptation plans to come up with measures to mitigate the effect flooding and storms has on homes and businesses in their areas.
Some of the ways councils are considering tackling this problem is by moving people out of homes or by erecting measures such as walls and bollards to block high tides, she added.
“The key is to prepare for it. But the other key is that you don’t build in areas prone to flooding. If you look back at the building boom before, we built in flood plains. We can’t make those mistakes again.”
Ms Burke was speaking at a conference on sustainable housing, organised by the Housing Agency, a government body.
Speaking at the event, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said that it was important to ensure that the State "fixes the housing sector in a sustainable way".
“If we are to address the climate crisis we must move towards compact growth and concentrate the delivery of housing within the current built up areas of our towns and cities,” he said.
“Providing more homes within these areas will increase population densities and allow for more public infrastructure, public transport and facilitate more people to walk and cycle.”
Michael Carey, chairperson of the Housing Agency, said careful planning, good design, quality construction and good density are the "key pillars" to meeting current and future housing needs in Ireland.
“One of the main objectives of the Housing Agency is to ensure that sustainable communities are at the heart of housing policy,” Mr Carey said.
“Sustainable communities are ones that last – they are places that are well planned, with good quality housing, where people have the opportunity to work, learn and play, and where people want to live for future generations.”
Speaking earlier this week, Prof Peter Thorne, one of the country's foremost climate change experts, warned that over the coming decade, a catastrophic storm during high tide will leave thousands of homes, businesses and landmark buildings in Dublin under water.
Prof Thorne said Ireland had been lucky to “dodge a bullet” until now during major storm events – because they have struck during low or neap tides – but it was only a matter of time until the elements combined for a devastating surge.