Ministers Kelly & Coffey publish updated Planning Guidelines on Design Standards for New Apartments

Mr Alan Kelly, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government and Mr Paudie Coffey, T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning and Coordination of Construction 2020 has just published updated guidelines on apartment standards.

Apartments are key part of the State’s housing stock, comprising of 11% of all occupied households and almost one-third of occupied households in Dublin City (Census 2011). Population growth, a move towards smaller average household size, an ageing population and a greater proportion of households in the rented sector mean that this trend is likely to continue. In addition, in 2011, three-quarters of all occupied apartments were rented.

The new guidelines, (attached) are the result of an updating of previous Departmental guidelines published in 2007 and are intended to enhance consistency between local authorities as regards planning requirements, affordability of construction and living standards for residents.

The new guidelines contain specific national planning policy requirements that will take precedence over policies and objectives of development plans, local area plans or strategic development zone planning schemes and will apply to all housing developments, whether public or private.

Minister Kelly pointed out that: “We have seen little or no significant apartment development since about 2007 when previous guidelines were published. Instead, we are witnessing an upward spiral of new planning requirements being specified by some, but not all local authorities, without proper analysis of their economic impact on the people who must ultimately pay – ordinary renters and apartment dwellers. The reality is that this year in Dublin, we needed 8,000 residential units to be built, but only 2,700 were actually delivered and viability of new construction, especially for apartments, is one factor holding back supply”.

Minister Kelly also sought to re-assure people concerned that the new guidelines would not mean a reduction in living standards adding that:

I will not stand for shoe-box living that was the hallmark of the Fianna Fáil governments of the past. Accordingly the guidelines will ensure living space standards that stand in very good comparison with apartment sizes in Europe generally by combining minimum standards with requirements that at least half or more of all apartments in any scheme must exceed the minima by at least 10% and in addition, the new guidelines will reduce hidden purchase and maintenance costs arising from overly burdensome lift requirements.”

“This is about delivering good, high-quality affordable housing in sufficient numbers to meet growing demand, which will also help to reduce rents by increasing the supply of properties available. This is a critical component of the solution to homelessness, which is being driven by the large increase in rents.”

Minister Coffey added that the updated guidelines will assist in ensuring that housing is delivered at affordable prices in line with the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy and will help to create compact and sustainable urban areas, highlighting that:

“It is not sensible or logical to have up to thirty-one different local authorities specifying different approaches to apartment standards across the country, driving up construction costs which make investment in new housing uneconomic.  As Minister with special responsibility for, Housing, Planning and the Construction 2020 strategy, I think it is imperative that we do everything in our power to make the building of apartments viable again to ensure that the acute housing demand is met.”

Both Ministers invited members of the public and interested bodies to examine the guidelines, which contain practical advice on ensuring that apartment living offers a high level of quality of life for residents and wider communities, for consistent application across local authority areas.