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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Radical co-op plan to let families build dream home in city centre

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

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FAMILIES will be able to cut out property developers and plan their own homes on vacant sites in co-operation with others looking to experience the next generation of city centre living.

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A radical plan by Dublin City Council aims to address the shortage of suitable homes in the capital while steering away from building more semi-detached houses in far-off suburbs.

It is offering a city centre site for just €150,000 to a group of people willing to form a co-operative and build a six-storey block with room for at least two family-sized homes.

Instead of settling for poky apartments reminiscent of the Celtic Tiger years, families are expected to opt for spacious maisonettes cleverly designed to fit into the space available.

This model could be used in any city across the country, and allow brownfield or derelict sites to be developed close to schools, and other amenities.

The idea of owner-developers could gain major traction in the light of a growing shortage of new homes coming on to the market, coupled with the need to make maximum use of available land in the cities.

Development

Some 55 hectares is available for development in the Dublin City area alone.

The lack of homes has resulted in a surge in house prices, with figures up 10pc so far this year – twice that in Dublin where demand is greatest.

About one in five families is currently in rented accommodation, many of whom would be interested in buying if suitable properties become available.

The Dublin House initiative will kick off with a competition involving the sale of 29 and 30 Fishamble Street opposite the civic offices.

The council wants to show how all the conveniences and space of modern three-bedroom homes can be delivered on a tight site in the city centre.

Between two and four household types can apply, once they have agreed to work together.

They must design, build and finance homes, and will be required to live there for at least 10 years.

City architect Ali Grehan said the idea could be used as a template for developing larger sites, and was the first time it would be used in Ireland.

"This idea of having small co-ops and small-scale development is done in places like Holland, Denmark and Berlin," she said.

"From the very outset, it wasn't about an economic idea. It was very much a social idea, thinking about why do people resist living in the city centre?

"We really need to do projects that challenge that. One of the reasons people don't live in the city centre is the lack of choice of accommodation, which begs the question – are we building apartments suitable for city living?

"Many people would say no, and we are going to have to change people's perception of apartments. One of the issues people have with apartment living is people don't feel they have control, and when you're sharing with two or three families you become a community."

The Fishamble Street site is 127 square metres, about the floor area of a four-bedroom house.

One design solution from the city council says the ground floor could comprise a retail unit or cafe of 61 square metres, while the second and third floors would be a two or three-bed duplex home for a family of four totalling 132 square metres.

The fourth floor could be a two-bed unit for a couple of 83 square metres; and the fifth and sixth floors include a three-bed unit for three friends sharing, totalling 132 square metres.

But the co-operative, working with an architect, will ultimately decide how many units, where the balconies will be located, the size of bedrooms, the location and size of windows and whether a shared roof terrace could be developed.

Architect

"It's about allowing people to have greater say in how they want to live in cities," senior executive architect Jeremy Wales added.

"Previously, people might be lucky enough to get a site and hire an architect. Now, we're creating a mechanism so households can get together and hire an architect to design an apartment building. It's to encourage people to live in the city."

The council believes it would cost between €1.1m and €1.2m to develop the site, including the cost of purchase and professional fees.

* Applications can be made from today and the council expects a lot of interest. Applicants must complete a form, name the households involved and show they have the funds to finish the development. The winner will be picked from a hat.

For more information, email dublinhouse@dublincity.ie

Irish Independent

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