The speech referred to in the question was given at an event organised by the London Irish Town Planners Network on 17 October last, to which I was invited as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to give an address on the theme of “Densification in an Urban Context”.
Separate to the London Irish Town Planners network event, there was a study tour to London organised by the Irish Planning Institute (IPI) from 16-18 October, that included a visit to co-living development as part of the tour itinerary.
This may have given rise to some confusion, as delegates to the Irish Planning Institute study tour were also invited to attend the London Irish Town Planners Network event, at which I spoke on the subject of urban densification, but not on the subject of co-living development.
The address made was wide-ranging and touched on a number of related topics, while also acknowledging the need to compare and learn from practice and experience elsewhere. It also served as an opportunity to encourage the pool of qualified and experienced Irish Planners working in London to consider return to Ireland.
Under Project Ireland 2040, including the National Planning Framework, the Government identified the achievement of compact growth as a key mechanism to support the future sustainable development of our cities and towns, addressing issues such as regional development, urban sprawl, long-distance commuting, housing supply and climate action.
The densification of settlements is an important part of achieving compact growth, and events such as that in London, provide an opportunity to discuss and debate the issues.
Last year, under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), my Department published updated apartment planning guidelines and new building height guidelines in order to encourage compact, sustainable growth in our urban areas and to further support the delivery of apartment development.
The updated Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities respond to changing housing need and a more dynamic urban employment market, including an aging, more diverse and internationally mobile population.
The updated guidelines also set out policy in relation to a range of apartment types needed to meet the accommodation needs of a variety of household types and sizes. This includes the introduction of the possibility of a ‘Shared Accommodation’ or ‘Co-Living’ format.
This format, which is only one element of the guidelines, is a particular form of development that may be appropriate where responding to an identified urban housing need at particular locations. However, co-living is not envisaged as an alternative or replacement to the more conventional apartment development.
While the apartment guidelines overall are designed to underpin compact growth objectives, the co-living format is intended to meet a very specific need.
In conclusion, the apartment guidelines stipulate that planning authorities strike a balance between the need to provide a particular format of accommodation to respond to a specific housing need in an urban location and the overall requirement to provide quality urban apartment development as a viable long term housing option. This is, of course, in the overall context of a range of urban and rural housing formats.