Housebuilder Glenveagh recently presented a plan to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien for overhauling existing regulations to allow for smaller gardens, fewer apartments and more tightly built streets. An existing 22m guideline from back door to back door dates to the 1900s, when it was needed to allow for outdoor toilets, solid fuel storage and some vegetable growing, the firm told the Minster.
Instead it urged a reduction to 16m as part of a master plan for more “low-rise, high-density” developments in mainly suburban areas around the country, which it claims would be the “biggest game-changer in housebuilding in Ireland”.
The previous Fine Gael-led government acquiesced to industry lobbying in 2016 to make apartment specifications smaller, then in 2018 to allow for a greater density of development for build-to-rent investors and then in 2019 with the removal of height caps. Yet we didn’t get more affordable apartments, we got more expensive apartments.
This has resulted in more high-density apartment development in Dublin and other urban centres. But in most cases the units aren’t suitable for families and are priced at levels few can afford, with the result that they end up in the ownership of funds.
“The Achilles’ heel with all these proposals is how can the savings be guaranteed to be passed on to purchasers? The sales price is set by the market not by construction costs,” one industry expert told Cantillon. He also suggested that developers may have overpaid for land if they can achieve such savings by reductions in garden size, and not the house size.
The game-changing aspect of this latest proposal could yet prove to be to Glenveagh’s profits by being able to cram in more housing onto its sites.