New Vision for Apartment Living
in our Cities and Urban Centres

  • Thousands of new apartments needed in our cities and major urban areas to tackle both the housing crisis and to avoid urban sprawl says Minister 
  • Minister publishes new draft planning policy guidelines to encourage more cost-effective apartment developments and new rental accommodation models

Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D. today Monday 18th December, 2017 published updated draft guidelines for planning authorities on apartment development, to ensure that the right stock of homes is being built, in the right locations, and at a cost that is more economically attractive to investors and developers.

The Minister pointed out that while the numbers of households living in apartments rose by 85% between 2002 and 2016, only 12% of households live in apartments nationally which is a long way behind the European and UK averages of 40-60%, which is going to have huge implications for our future development:

We know we have a housing shortage, but we are now beginning to catch things up. However it is essential that as we build new homes, we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and create new crises for the future. We know we need to build more homes for individuals and couples, as well as more for renters, and we know this means building more apartments in our urban centres – but we also know that it has not been as economically attractive to do so.

“It was clear to me upon taking office that we had a particular problem in this area. While there might be plenty of cranes across the skyline of Dublin for example, the vast majority are building offices, not homes. We need to turn this around.

“These new measures will address a number of challenges that we currently face. They will make it a lot more cost effective to build apartments, with the removal of parking space requirements and increasing the number of units that can be built in a development, for example. They will attract greater investment in to the build to rent sector, which will relieve the huge pressure we are currently seeing in the rental market. They’ll allow for “shared living” options which I believe will be very attractive to our multinational sector with its young and mobile workforce. We’ll see the right types of homes being built, with more studios and 1 and 2-bed apartments. And together with our “above the shop” initiatives, the new proposals will open up far more vacant space in our cities and urban centres. All of this is important now, as we turn around our housing shortage – but it’s also crucial if the country is to develop in the right way in to the future.”

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English also added that:

“We know that the homes that are being built, in rapidly increasing numbers, are houses, not apartments and mainly at the edges of our cities and towns, not in and about their centres where there are many sites crying out for regeneration and renewal. These proposals could really breathe new life into our towns and cities, while providing more suitable and affordable homes for our citizens, up and down the country.”

In the context of the new National Planning Framework, shortly to be adopted by Government, Minister Murphy said:

We know from the Ireland 2040/National Planning Framework process, currently being finalised by Government, that there will be at the very least an extra 1 million people in Ireland in the next 20-25 years needing at least 550,000 new homes. Roughly half of these will need to be built in cities, with the balance across towns and villages and rural areas.

“We also know that many of our cities and larger towns need to develop in a smarter, greener way, not sprawling relentlessly outwards and at their edges like they did in the past. People want urban places that are attractive, that are lively and where all the services, facilities and amenities they need are within easy reach. People need better choices of where to live and most don’t want or need to be totally car dependent. And the shared economy has opened up new possibilities for car ownership in any case.

“Urban development in Ireland therefore needs a lot more apartment provision so that we can enable our cities and towns to become the places that people want to see in a modern society and a modern economy that is attracting thousands of skilled workers and who want to live close to their place of work at a price they can afford.”

Informing the update, an internal Departmental analysis of the commercial viability of apartment development concluded that such development, to be aimed at the disposable incomes of households on average incomes is not currently economic, but that with careful adjustment of requirements like the provision of expensive underground parking in central sites and enabling a more flexible mix of apartment types, matters will be improved.

In addition, a recent Society of Chartered Surveyors cost analysis of recent apartment developments in Dublin arrived at similar conclusions and called for a package of measures to promote apartment development.

Therefore, an updated package of guidelines is being published, for a focused short period of consultation and engagement, that build on many of the good features of the previous 2007 and 2015 guidelines. The guidelines will be formally adopted with the National Planning Framework.

Minister Murphy pointed out that:

The evidence shows us that the overwhelming pressure in the rental market is from smaller 1-2 person households, like the thousands of young people able to stay in Ireland working and wanting to rent a place of their own. That is why the new guidelines ease restrictions on the mix of apartment types enabling more studio type and 1 bedroom apartments”

The Minister added:

“We also know that things like underground car parking requirements can add anything from €20/30,000 to the cost of developing apartments and where these are not really needed, like near city centres and other areas with good public transport access. So the default now will be that car parking is not required in well-connected central urban locations.”

Recognising the rapidly increasing demand for new forms of rental accommodation, the Minister stated that:

We have also provided new guidance on a new form of shared and serviced rental accommodation – so called “build-to-rent and shared accommodation or co-living”, increasingly being sought by the many tech-sector and new economic enterprises drawn to the centres of our cities and towns. We believe that a new additional code for this emerging demand, could unlock major investment in rental accommodation that is being demanded by the thousands of workers coming in to our growing economy, and which, while very positive for the overall economy, is adding to the pressure in the rental market.

Recognising the importance of the issue and the need to engage and get broader views in finalising the guidelines, they will be published in draft form today, which will be followed by a call for submissions and the hosting of a workshop in mid-January.

After that, the views and information received will be taken on board in finalising the guidelines in tandem with the National Planning Framework, to maximise certainty in the planning process.