Belfast Telegraph

We must build upwards to halt 'sprawl' - minister

Height restrictions for apartment blocks are to be increased in city centres and along key transport routes as the Housing Minister warned the current limits were ridiculous.

Eoghan Murphy is asking officials to report back on the possibility of changing planning rules to cut out mandatory car parking in complexes.

The minister also tried to dismiss notions that the relaxation of planning and building rules was for the benefit of developers.

"Let me completely dispel any notion that this is about quick returns for our housing providers," he said.

"This is about meeting the housing needs of modern diverse cities and new communities, while also opening up new sources of funding like pension funds to provide this accommodation."

Another measure being floated to combat the worst housing and homelessness crisis in the state's history is new shared student-style accommodation where young professionals would live in high-rise buildings with access to shared kitchens, utility rooms, gyms or recreation areas.

The developments have been used in London and Berlin.

Mr Murphy told the Irish Planning Institute that a complete change in the outlook and approaches to future planning and development of Irish cities was needed.

"We know that building cities outwards is a failed concept," he said.

"We have some ridiculous restrictions on the effective and efficient use of scarce and expensive building land. The sprawl has got to stop."

There are more than 8,000 homeless people in emergency accommodation and more than 90,000 people and families on waiting lists for a council house.

Mr Murphy suggested that mandatory car parking thresholds could be lifted for apartment complexes within 750m or 1km of a Dart or suburban rail line, Luas stop or quality bus corridor rapid transit bus stops.

"In such locations where we want to see sustainable travel, not cars, the default position will be that housing providers will have to justify any car-parking provision," he said.

On restrictions for high-rise apartment complexes, Mr Murphy said he intended to lift the caps in city centres and along key public transport corridors.

At present apartment blocks are a maximum 24m high in low-rise parts of inner city Dublin and 13m in the suburbs - those restrictions cover the majority of the capital.

Mr Murphy said: "We have restrictions where there are lower building heights for residential development than commercial - even on the same street.

"This makes no sense in normal times, never mind when we're in the midst of a housing crisis."

A government working group is to report by the end of November of the ideas floated by Mr Murphy.

The minister said it would not lead to free-for-all high rise building but high-density viable development "w here it makes sense".

"We have to free ourselves from the mind-set that everyone should live in a three bedroomed house at every stage of their lives," he said.

"We know other models work, but we don't have them here. So, our job as policy makers and planners is to see how this can be done and to then make it happen."

Mr Murphy said at least 5,000 new homes should be developed over the next couple of years under new build-to-rent models.

He also called for m ore studio and one and two bedroom apartments, not just for renters; f amily apartments to encourage more people to stay in cities; s pecialist housing for older people, others trading down and the less able-bodied.

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