Owen Keegan: Homeowners holding Dublin to low-rise ‘ransom’

Residents blocking high-density housing and high-rise apartments, says council chief

 Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan: said resistance to high-density and high-rise developments displayed a  “lack of inter-generational solidarity”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Dublin City Council CEO Owen Keegan: said resistance to high-density and high-rise developments displayed a “lack of inter-generational solidarity”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Dublin must not be “held to ransom” by homeowners who want to block the development of high-density housing and taller apartment buildings, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has said.

Mr Keegan has accused homeowners of a “lack of inter-generational solidarity” in their unwillingness to allow the development of new apartment blocks in their communities.

Mr Keegan was speaking at an Urban Land Institute conference in Dublin on Thursday, where he said allowing the development of housing on some lands zoned for open space could serve the “public interest”.

Dublin City Council was “not responsible for the performance of the private housing market or for the failure of private housing supply”, he said.

However, the council did have an important role in influencing the private housing market given its responsibilities in areas such as land use planning.

Maximum height

Councillors had “embraced” higher-density development in new areas of the city such as the Poolbeg peninsula, he said, but in most of the established areas of the outer city the maximum height of apartments was 16m or five storeys.

“Facilitating higher densities in established areas of the city represents a real challenge for the elected members given the lack of public support in these areas,” said Mr Keegan.

He did not like the idea that the city would be 'held to ransom' by communities who had the view that 'they own the public domain'

Taller buildings should be allowed in these established suburban areas, he said.

“The current 16m/five-storey cap on residential development covers a very significant area of the city between the canals and the M50. This is where I believe there is very significant potential for higher residential buildings.”

Existing homeowners were resistant to “supportive land use measures” or anything that might reduce the price of housing, he said.

“There are few areas in public policy where the lack of inter-generational solidarity is more obvious than the public attitude to higher-density residential development in the city council area.”

He did not like the idea that the city would be “held to ransom” by communities who had the view that “they own the public domain”, he said.

‘Unbearable pressure’

“A significant number of residents and residents’ associations in low-rise areas of the city object to even medium-rise development on the grounds that it will place unbearable pressure on local services and devalue their homes. As far as they are concerned any proposed development above two/three storeys in height constitutes bad planning, which must be stopped at all costs.”

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy recently signalled he intended to remove the cap on height in the city. However, Mr Keegan said height policy “should ideally continue to be made by elected members” to ensure “a degree of democratic legitimacy”.

I would argue that in the case of the Dublin city housing market the State should go beyond tenure neutrality and actually favour renting

“However, a mechanism must be found where the interests of both existing and prospective residents are brought to bear on the decision-making process.”

Given the recent property crash, Mr Keegan said he found the “continuing enthusiasm” for house-buying surprising, but he said Government policy had encouraged home ownership.

While there was a case that policy should be “tenure neutral”, Mr Keegan said the need for more rental accommodation had to be addressed.

“I would argue that in the case of the Dublin city housing market the State should go beyond tenure neutrality and actually favour renting.”