Friday 23 August 2019

Housing Minister under fire for comparing co-living to boutique hotel

During the interview Eoghan Murphy said: ‘It’s something I’d seen abroad in other cities, where you have your own private room.’

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Minister for Housing has come under fire for comparing co-living spaces to a boutique hotel.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, on Friday, Minister Eoghan Murphy said the buildings, which would have single bedrooms, with a shared kitchen and living space, would be aimed at graduates or young professionals.

One previous plan for a co-living space in Dublin had proposals for 40 adults using one kitchen.

During the interview Mr Murphy said: “It’s something I’d seen abroad in other cities, where you have your own private room, en suite, but you also have shared community spaces, a gym, a movie room, a games room potentially, a kitchen, a living room.”

To which the presenter replied: “Like prison.”

“No, not at all, it’s more like a very trendy, kind of boutique hotel type place,” Mr Murphy added.

“I can see people coming here to Ireland who can’t sign a 12-month lease because they’re not going to be here for 12 months maybe, who don’t want to share a place with three strangers, and who want to have a bit of privacy, but also a bit of that communal or social aspect to living.

“They’ll do that for six or 12 months, until they’re six or 12 months into their first job, and then go with two or colleagues from work and say ‘let’s rent a house’.”

Mr Murphy’s comments have drawn considerable criticism from political rivals.

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett whose own constituency had planning permission for co-living spaces rejected, says Mr Murphy does not understand the housing crisis.

“What we are talking about are 200 tiny box rooms with fold out beds,” he said.

“For Eoghan Murphy to claim these are ‘trendy’ or suitable in any way for people who are in dire need of decent affordable accommodation is simply shocking.

“These comments show that the Minister for Housing is living on another planet and simply does not understand the housing crisis.

“For the Minister to make these remarks is really quite appalling in that the comment seem to indicate that he and the government are content that hotel type arrangements are satisfactory for permanent living.

“It seems this government are standing with the speculators and the developers rather than the huge number of people who are finding it impossible to put an affordable roof over their head.”

Fianna Fail’s housing spokesman Darragh O Brien took aim, saying: “Minister Eoghan Murphy is so unbelievably out of touch he now believes his own PR spin,” he said.

“Co-living cannot be the highpoint of the State’s ambitions in housing.

“Under FG the delivery of basic housing services has failed miserably.”

Likewise, Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane said co-living was not the answer.

“There is nothing ‘trendy’ about co-living. It’s no cool. It’s not the future. It’s not the solution,” he said.

“Eoghan Murphy should build the bloody houses that people need and serve up less of his pampered, cosseted, privileged view of the world.”

The controversial co-living planning application being discussed came from developer Bartra Capital Property Group.

An Bord Pleanala previously refused Bartra’s plans to develop 222 co-living spaces and 160 apartments across three blocks in the former Cookstown industrial estate in Tallaght.

When refusing the permission, the planning board said the co-living element “had a notable shortfall in the quantitative and qualitative provisions of sufficient communal facilities”.

The group also attracted criticism for plans to develop a 208-bed “co-living” block on a former school site in Dun Laoghaire.

The original plans for this site included a proposal for one kitchen per 40 residents.

Ireland is currently suffering the worst homeless crisis in the history of the state, with over 10,250 people homeless in May 2019.

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