Thursday 8 December 2016

Bowing to the building lobby will backfire on minister when buyers shun shoeboxes

Published 30/12/2015 | 02:30

'Keegan is the man who rejects cars and taxis in the city, but has sanctioned a route for a daily procession of trucks through residential areas'. Photo: Frank McGrath
'Keegan is the man who rejects cars and taxis in the city, but has sanctioned a route for a daily procession of trucks through residential areas'. Photo: Frank McGrath

There is a row going on over five square metres - about 54 square feet in old money, or the size of a small single bedroom with a desk and wardrobe. Environment Minister Alan Kelly, in the rushed Planning Guidelines on Design Standards for New Apartments, is dictating serious civic space and urban design features that will define the shape of our cities and how we live long after he is gone (which is only a matter of weeks away). So trenchant is his belief that there is a large sector of the population who wish to live in studio apartments (bed beside the kitchen sink) that he has ordered that his 'guidelines' must "take precedence over policies and objectives of development plans, local area plans or strategic development zone planning schemes" and include all housing, including apartments.

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There is only one reason as I see it why such an order would be made: it is not to enhance the residential amenity or even provide more housing; rather, it is to appease the construction lobby in order to increase profit margins.

Where is the logic in providing small spaces with a bathroom, kitchen and a sofa-bed when the rental market is driven by people who wish to share on a temporary basis? The same kitchen and bathroom could be used by two or three occupants with more adequate sleeping and living space for future families.

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