High-rise flats are not the answer

 

Sir, – In calling for higher and denser apartment blocks in Dublin to solve the housing crisis, Bank of Ireland’s Francesca McDonagh repeats a couple of erroneous narratives about housing (“Build high-rise apartments to solve the housing crisis, says bank chief”, Business, February 13th).

It is affordability that is the core of the Irish housing crisis. People cannot afford the housing that is on offer, which is why new house prices are flatlining with sales of about 10,000 per annum yet a demand for 35,000 homes each year goes unmet.

Building higher, as she has called for, is more complicated and costly than other solutions, and therefore leads to more expensive housing. More expensive housing is not the solution to a housing affordability problem. European cities that have sustainable housing communities suitable for families build mid-rise, where the construction and running costs are cost-optimum, the density supports good public transport, and children have places to play. The Department of Housing has recommended six storeys as the optimum viable residential building height.

She is also disappointed that only 17 per cent of house completions last year were apartments. In reality, over 35 per cent of all housing in Dublin comprises apartments and that number is growing. This increase is mostly for lucrative renting at an estimated gross to net profit of about 80 per cent per month, which is unaffordable for most households thus driving them to the commuter belts.

The second issue is that of density. Dublin is already quite a dense city. At over 4,500 persons per square kilometre, it is denser than London, Berlin, Sydney, Chicago and even Amsterdam.

Solutions for increasing supply without exacerbating urban sprawl mostly involve the better use of public lands in cities for the provision of housing that is affordable, and not selling it off to the highest bidder.

With the greatest respect to Ms McDonagh, given the role banks played in the last economic crisis, the repercussions of which are still being played out in housing today, they are probably not best placed to advise on what should be built and where. – Yours, etc,

ORLA HEGARTY,

Assistant Professor,

School of

Architecture, UCD;

Dr LORCAN SIRR,

Senior Lecturer,

Technological

University Dublin.