Last week, the Minister for Environment wrote to the Chief Executive of the four Dublin local authorities, claiming that “viability of new development and therefore supply, will be placed at risk by insertion of unreasonable or excessive requirements in relation to the standard of housing g or ancillary services and facilities …”. This comes in response to a Green Party proposal in the Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown Development Plan to include provision for ‘passive housing’ standards in the development plan. A Green Party councillor on South Dublin County Council was able to insert a provision on rainwater harvesting in that areas plan.
Passive housing is a housing standard where by using thorough and precise building design housing can be constructed with an energy demand 90% lower than most buildings. These buildings become extremely cheap to heat and run in the medium to long term.
Minister Kelly is actually seeking to have councillors in local authorities enact lower building standards. He wants us to permit houses that will be colder, less efficient and more costly for home owners to run. He has provided absolutely no evidence to back up his claim that these houses are more expensive to build. Indeed, there is ample evidence that passive houses are now being built for the same cost as the usual, less efficient houses.
I’ve no doubt the Minister has been lobbied by vested interests like the Construction Industry Federation and NAMA. I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department asking for all communication and lobbying that it has received on this issue. I think that housing standards should be set according to what is going to be best for home owners, not what suits big builders. This is how I will vote when this issue comes up for discussion in Fingal.