Building smaller homes could create ghettos of future, says expert

City alert: ‘There will be very few shoe-box apartments built in leafy Dublin suburbs’

Allowing smaller apartments to be built in Dublin could put foreign migrants at risk of "ghettoisation" and marginalisation in the city, according to planner and author Paul Kearns.

New arrivals to Ireland are most likely to live in the inner city and in the smallest apartments, said Mr Kearns, co-author of Beyond Pebbledash, an analysis of Dublin housing.

“The north inner city has the highest concentration of foreign born residents in the State. In an area with the equivalent population of Athlone – 20,000 – up to 60 per cent are immigrants.”

The same part of the city has the highest concentration of small homes, one-bedroom apartments and studio flats and bedsits, in the entire State, Mr Kearns said.


“Up to 50 per cent are one bed, the majority 38 square metres. An additional 10 per cent are bedsits and, although the number of bedsits is falling, there is evidence of overcrowding in the smallest apartments.”

Inner city

Under new planning rules issued by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly this week, the new category of studio apartment with a combined living and sleeping area, must be "within walking distance of centres of employment or on, or immediately adjoining, major employment sites", a definition which would include the inner city.

“No matter what the standards for new homes will be, there will be very few shoe-box apartments built in leafy Dublin suburbs. We are talking about Dublin’s inner city. What the north inner city, Dublin’s inner city, badly needs is more decent sized family homes, not less.”

He added that there was no particular reason why a tech-industry, foreign-born worker moving to Ireland would want a small apartment.

“The inner city needs a greater mix of housing and family friendly sized homes. That includes apartment homes, which are for families. In reducing size, we are in danger of unwittingly consolidating ghettoisation, marginalisation and a concentration of social and environmental disadvantage. Overcrowding is real and a great risk. We are potentially storing up huge problems,” he said.

“The Minister talks of the council seeking ‘gold-plated standards’. I think very few Irish people would say a two-bed family home of 85 sq m is gold plated.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times