“Size isn’t important” | Are shoe box apartments really the solution?

by Bregs Blog admin team


“Size isn’t important!”

The BRegs Blog has documented the acute fall-off in commencement notices since the introduction of S.I.9 in March of this year. Other industry commentators have noted CSO figures for a 17% decrease in residential planning applications year-on-year. In parallel we appear to have significant property price increases in Dublin while the levels of homelessness appear to have increased also. Faced with an apparent shortage of affordable housing Minister Alan Kelly appears to be about to introduce a 10% requirement for social housing on all new residential developments.

With S.I.9 having a significant effect on the self-build sector with 800 dwellings being abandoned this year alone (source IAOSB), we table a selection of recent articles from various industry lobby groups on how to kick-start the residential construction sector.

One thing is certain- the huge increases in cost for a typical dwelling due to S.I.9 combined with any new more onerous social housing levies may well make speculative housing continue to be unfeasible, even despite recent price increases. In the short term this may well depress residential development further and contribute towards a rental “bubble” and housing shortages. The following letters and articles list out consumer and industry discussion on the matter (click on heading/titles to access link to articles).

Apartment Sizes

The following letter to the editor in the Irish Times from Peter Ennis on October 7th 2014 concerns a Construction Industry Federation (CIF) call for smaller apartment sizes and cynically suggests (seemingly in jest) “…why not a reduction in building standards, a ban on costly thermal and sound insulation, an abolition of any building inspections and a rowback on fire safety standards, as these will surely encourage a building boom and create many jobs? Feeding our children less might also mean future generations will fit into even smaller apartments.

Remarkably key industry stakeholders the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and the Society for Chartered Surveyors (SCSI) have endorsed the CIF call for a reduction in building standards and sizes to offset costs in new building. Rather than concentrating on the removal of additional red-tape or a reduction in actual construction labour and materials costs, these representative bodies appear to be endorsing smaller units of lesser quality.

CIF says standards hamper development

In a recent Irish Times article the CIF has said “Dublin City Council should change its standards on apartments now to kick-start development, industry representatives have said.”

This article is of some concern to professionals who note that developers tend to concentrate on minium standards and maximising profits rather than market and dwelling sustainability or settlement patterns and urban mix.

Housing Agency calls for smaller apartments in Dublin

“John O’Connor of the Housing Agency is urging the council to reduce permitted sizes of one-, two- and three- bedroom apartments to restart construction and make homes more affordable.

The SCSI said the affordability of construction could be addressed through increasing density instead of reducing size. “We are still 45 to 55 per cent off the prices that were achieved when the regulations were brought in,” said Michael Cleary, the chairman of the society’s planning and development group…The council’s standards should be kept but there has to be a “trade-off” of allowing density to be increased. “We need to achieve more out of a site without the diminution of standards, so that might mean building a 10-storey block instead of eight storeys.”

President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland [RIAI] Robin Mandal said a reduction in size did not have to mean a reduction in quality.

“…Size isn’t necessarily the most important aspect when it comes to ensuring the quality of apartments.”

On balance this would appear to be a more considered version of the CIF recommendations however dwelling size frequently is directly related to quality of living. What commentators may actually be hinting at is the unintended consequences due to recent changes to planning legislation that remove so-called “pre-63” bedsits and multiple units from the market. Although intended to remove sub-standard smaller dwellings form the market the absence of a workable alternative has resulted in a shortage of smaller cheaper rental units for the entry level or lower level of the rental market.

Council sees no reason to change standards

In this article “Claims that Dublin City Council’s apartment standards were holding back development were “simplistic, premature” and based on a superficial analysis, a senior council official said. Executive manager of the council’s planning department Jim Keogan said he had no reason to advise councillors to reduce apartment sizes…

…If we go back to building micro apartments it’s the owner of the land who will gain from having more units on the site, but the price isn’t going to go down for the buyer or the renter.”

Other posts of interest:

Irish Independent “Private lifts and sunny views- but housing is a real mess” 

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9?