Is it time that we set a maximum floor area for houses?
There has been much discussion about the minimum floor area for a home, but little discussion about homes at the other end of the scale. Homes should be environmentally, socially, economically and culturally sustainable. Appropriately sized homes use less energy, occupy less space and are more affordable. We need to recognise that building inappropriately large houses is unsustainable.
The National Planning Framework which was published last year, focuses on the idea of compact growth, with more housing development close to and within built up areas. The framework stresses the need to better use infill, brownfield and publicly owned sites. The aim is to achieve higher housing and jobs densities, allowing people to live closer to where they work and to make public transport a viable option for more people.
The impact of this shift in policy focus is evident in some recent decisions by An Bord Pleanála in relation to Strategic Housing Development applications. This process is having a beneficial impact on increasing densities and encouraging a better mix of types of housing within developments. This needs to be replicated across the country by individual planning authorities.
Greater population density in our villages, towns and cities would allow us to use our public infrastructure better and help us to develop new infrastructure to help our communities work effectively.
It is also important to have a sustainable mix of housing types. More than half of our households consist of one and two-persons. When we include three-person households, this figure increases to three-quarters. Our continued approach to building estates of three and four-bedroom houses is not meeting the needs of our population. We should aim to provide housing for all stages of life, including student accommodation, rental housing, family homes and accessible properties for older people. This will allow people to remain in their communities, in housing which meets their needs and fits with their lifestyle.
Currently, one quarter of new homes completed are single houses, often outside of our villages, towns and cities. Moving away from this type of development and encouraging greater population density is critical if we want to be able to provide people with proper infrastructure and sustainable communities.
We are fortunate in Ireland to have a growing population. We have a fantastic opportunity now, to plan where these people will live, and how our communities will function in 10 or 20 years’ time.
The Housing Agency works with local authorities, housing bodies and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in addressing our housing needs. The Housing Agency is committed to increasing social housing supply and supporting a broader range of affordable housing options, both for rent and for purchase.
The Housing Agency