Lifestyle

Friday 22 August 2014

The psychology: They do it in New York, Paris and Berlin - so why can't we embrace family apartment life?

Stroll around many European city centres and you'll see imposing apartment blocks comfortably housing several families.

But as Tom Dunne, head of real estate and construction at DIT, explains, we're not on par with those other cities. "Dublin is relatively modest in size and we simply haven't had the need to embrace apartment living in the way cities with a population of three or four million have," he says.

"Paris and Berlin expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before the car became popular so it was necessary to build high concentration housing close to the city centre."

Moreover, until the latter stages of the boom, the standard of apartments built was incomparable with continental Europe.

"European apartments have greater floor-to-ceiling height and better storage, such as basement lock-ups. We were a different market," says Tom.

Bob Jordan, director of Threshold, agrees. "It was only at the very end of the boom that regulations were introduced to make apartments more suitable for family living. Until then they were aimed at single, young professionals with little attention given to storage and space."

The Irish mentality has also been geared towards home ownership.

Bob explains: "In Germany or France there is a lot more security offered in the rental market so renters feel they own their home.

"Traditionally there's a bit of snobbery towards renting here." But with the emphasis on buying a home being blamed for helping cause the crash, attitudes are changing.

Tom believes we'll see a surge in renting, more akin to models in continental Europe, post-crash.

With a lack of available family housing close to the city centre and transport routes becoming increasingly congested, more families could find themselves living in apartments -- if standards improve.

"In Manhattan, smaller apartments are being reformed into larger homes, and I think that's maybe something we'll see here," says Tom.

Irish Independent

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