What future for housing estates?

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    • #707541
      Frank Taylor
      Participant

      I live in an Irish 1960s/1970s housing estate. It’s 200 acres and has about 2,000 residents in 800 houses, so 10 people per acre. The drawbacks of this style of housing are well known (monotonous streets, car dependent lifestyles, insufficent density to support any businesses or public transport). Front gardens have now mostly disappeared as everyone has paved over to make a maintenance free parking lot for all the family and guests. I live in the middle, 13 mins walk from the nearest shop. I rarely see an adult neighbour attempt any journey on foot. The open spaces around the estate are just vast stretches of scrub that no-one uses.

      Nearby, the surrounding green spaces have been built on with far denser residential and mixed use developments to create housing that occupies a far smaller amount of land but sells for much the same as the housing where I live. The urge to increase the density comes from both the property owners, whose sites are worth less than the surrounding newer developments due to planning rules, and from the council who can see that this type of housing would no longer be sanctioned as it is unsustainable.

      So how will housing estates like mine develop in the future? Latest planning rules indicate that infill development will be encouraged where possible and I see my neighbours capitalising on this. But what is there beyond this?

      Here’s a few ideas

      • 10/acre housing estates don’t change beyond infill and remain a comparative waste of space for those who like gardens and driving to the shop to buy cigarettes.
      • Zoning rules change slowly to allow subdivision of large houses into smaller units and smaller back graden minimum sizes. (like what happened in Rathmines)
      • Zoning rules change to allow demolishing houses and rebuilding to 3/4/5 storeys.
      • Council CPO’s the whole estate at 150% of current value and rezones the lot at higher density and sells on to a developer (land with housing currently worth around 3m/acre, CPO @4.5m.acre, sell on for 6m/acre
      • Build housing down the middle of the housing estate streets, ban cars from entering the estate, put multi-storey car parks at the estate entrances, build shops in the center of the estate. Do this to the neighbouring estates and connect em up with an underground the terminates in the city centre. (OK this one is not going to happen)

      OK so what do you think? Which scenario is most likely for the future of housing estates on valuable city land? None of the above?

    • #748959
      jimg
      Participant

      Numbering your ideas:
      1. The most likely outcome.
      2. Is not practical. Houses in Rathmines are typically twice the size in terms of floor area of a typical three bed semi – some are substantially bigger. Most are terraced and so the floor area density (to coin a phrase) is already many multiples of that of a semi-detached seventies suburban housing estate.
      3. I believe the rezoning could happen but the chances of significant development happening along these lines are slight. Buying contiguous houses will be horribly expensive and even then you can be sure that the other neighbours will fight tooth and nail not to have a three story building “tower over them” or “ruin their view”. It will not be economically viable and for it to have any discernable affect it would need to happen all over the place. I know it has happened in one or two places in Dublin but these are exceptional cases.
      4. You’re joking? It would be political suicide.
      5. This is my favourite but will never happen. I’ve often fondly imagined certain housing estates being transformed in this manner.

      This is what horrifies me about suburban sprawl. Apollo house will be lucky to reach it’s fortieth birthday; the Ballymun towers lasted thirty odd years while the estates around lucan will be there for a century at least if not many centuries. I’m often perplexed when people are more outraged by standalone architectural monstrosities which can be relatively cheaply “corrected” (i.e. replaced) than the permanent and practically irreversable damage caused by covering hundreds of acres of land in unsustainable poorly laid out low density suburban housing.

    • #748960
      Andrew Duffy
      Participant

      “Hear hear!” he said, in a poor impression of a member of parliament.

    • #748961
      tommyt
      Participant

      Here’s a few ideas

      10/acre housing estates don’t change beyond infill and remain a comparative waste of space for those who like gardens and driving to the shop to buy cigarettes.
      Zoning rules change slowly to allow subdivision of large houses into smaller units and smaller back graden minimum sizes. (like what happened in Rathmines)
      Zoning rules change to allow demolishing houses and rebuilding to 3/4/5 storeys.
      Council CPO’s the whole estate at 150% of current value and rezones the lot at higher density and sells on to a developer (land with housing currently worth around 3m/acre, CPO @4.5m.acre, sell on for 6m/acre
      Build housing down the middle of the housing estate streets, ban cars from entering the estate, put multi-storey car parks at the estate entrances, build shops in the center of the estate. Do this to the neighbouring estates and connect em up with an underground the terminates in the city centre. (OK this one is not going to happen)

      scenarios 2 and 3 above largely cover what I am researching for my dissertation and if you read the DLR county development plan, are not only likely but broadly encouraged to happen. DLR is ina population decline spiral since 1986 in certain areas due to too low density (mostly middle-class) housing. The argument that the demographics will right themselves over time don’t really apply in such high market value housing so intensificatioin is the only way forward. The same thing re: subdivision of large houses happened in London in the 80’s and will no doubt start to happen in Ballinteer, Foxrock, clonskeagh etc. I meant to post on this forum at some stage to see if any architects have any ideas or have ever worked on converting a 4 bed semi-d into 2 duplexes/apts etc. so I am interested in seeing what other pple think on this issue.

    • #748962
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Is there any example of this kind of development, the conversion/removal of housing estates, elsewhere – in the UK or Europe?
      Surely something along these lines has been attempted somewhere to offer us some indication as to how this problem may be dealt with.

    • #748963
      Frank Taylor
      Participant

      @Graham Hickey wrote:

      Is there any example of this kind of development, the conversion/removal of housing estates, elsewhere – in the UK or Europe?
      Surely something along these lines has been attempted somewhere to offer us some indication as to how this problem may be dealt with.

      I’d be interested in this too. I lived in a densified estate in London for a couple of years. Lots of infill, extensions and (well executed) subdivision. The result was a more lively area, but choked with traffic even on the inner housing estate roads. A lot of immigrant kids were killed in road accidents because they weren’t used to the dangers.

      One other possible future for housing estates would result from a rise in oil prices. If you can only afford to heat two rooms and you do a lot of journeys by bike or on foot as my family had to during the 70’s oil crisis, you lose the benefits of having a big house, miles out of town. I have fond memories of the oil crises as a kid: cycling with my parents on the weekend instead of ‘going for a walk in the car’, or the morning my dad couldn’t get to work because a thief had siphoned the fuel out of his car overnight.

      The suburbs have already changed from the 70’s. Looking back at early photos, the housing estate was very bare without all the mature trees there now. As single car families were the norm, the kids went to the local schools on foot or by bike rather than being ferried by mammy in the MPV. People went to mass more often and the women in the area (mostly non car-owners) had a fairly broad network through schools and church. My mother once told me she knew over 100 women locally. There were shops in the centre of the housing estate, grocery, newsagent, chemist: all now gone. Now I’d say I know maybe 30 of the 2,000 residents in the estate- not much of a community.

      I don’t think anyone would have predicted that houses would one day sell for half a million in the local council estates, that we feared so much. Those fears were imaginary and have now been replaced with fear of paedophiles and traffic accidents, which is maybe why kids don’t play football on the cul-de-sacs anymore.

      I don’t buy into the idea that oil will run out soon and kill the suburbs. People who propound this remind me of the Jehova’s witnesses warning of impending doom for those who fail to repent. If oil does run out in our lifetimes, I guess we’ll starve and urban land use will be the last thing on our minds.

    • #748964
      tommyt
      Participant

      @Graham Hickey wrote:

      Is there any example of this kind of development, the conversion/removal of housing estates, elsewhere – in the UK or Europe?
      Surely something along these lines has been attempted somewhere to offer us some indication as to how this problem may be dealt with.

      happening in the Netherlands at the moment in areas within 10 mins of a train station, but it is apts replacing already high density duplex developments. I can definitely see the day coming though when the semi-D is an exotic species. The english are very focused on developing what they call ‘marginal open space’ in urban areas and god knows there’s a lots of that in Dublin.

    • #748965
      GrahamH
      Participant

      Prairies as it were.

      What sort of densities are being achieved at the moment with housing estates, considering how in most cases the houses are being built on top of each other – you can usually put you arm out the bathroom window and touch your neighbour’s window – or even worse see into it 🙂

      Frank you make a good point about communities fragmenting in housing estates, but then this is the case across the board if not more so with apartment living and higher density developments. Just the way people are nowadays.
      But is this all about the environment – either way the oil’s gonna go eventually & more sustainable modes of private transport will have to be developed. So in the long term is this simply a traffic congestion issue rather than an environmental one?

    • #748966
      Anonymous
      Participant

      @Graham Hickey wrote:

      Prairies as it were.

      What sort of densities are being achieved at the moment with housing estates, considering how in most cases the houses are being built on top of each other – you can usually put you arm out the bathroom window and touch your neighbour’s window – or even worse see into it 🙂

      But is this all about the environment – either way the oil’s gonna go eventually & more sustainable modes of private transport will have to be developed. So in the long term is this simply a traffic congestion issue rather than an environmental one?

      I think that suburban housing development has undergone greater changes than any other type of development in recent years. Densities have increased dramatically and developers are hungrier than ever to put in as much retail space as they think they can get away with.

      The major change that has occured without doubt is the advent of the local area plan, which are getting better and better in terms of the level of detail going into them. There are some Local authorites that have not really adressed them in a meaningful way yet, but as Graham rightly points out, traffic generation is every local authorities worst nightmare as they ultimately foot the bill for non-national roads.

      Regarding government intervention, I do not believe that the state needs to intervene as an equity holder, it is simply up to the Minister to start framing some guidelines encouraging higher densities in areas such as Crumlin, Killester, and linking the density issue to access to high quality transport corridors.

      The most interesting residential land transaction this year without doubt was the CIE sale as Fassaugh Avenue in Cabra, which involved an old cement depot of 9 acres making 28m, but CIE retained a sufficient parcel to develop a platform for a new rail station and incorporated a public right of way into station as part of the contract.

      I also feel that measures such as the new instituional land use zoning are also entirely counter productive as there are in many cases a massive correlation between Victorian Schools/Hospitals and rail lines, this new ‘social and affordable’ clause is going to be entirely counter productive as the institutions will simply not release the land.

      There is a housing estate north west of Swords that was built in 1970’s it has one little shop and about one bus every 90 minutes to Swords and the City Centre it is surrounded on all sides by fields and one-off houses. An extreme example I know but transport land use planning is the only gig in town.

    • #748967
      Frank Taylor
      Participant

      @Graham Hickey wrote:

      Frank you make a good point about communities fragmenting in housing estates, but then this is the case across the board if not more so with apartment living and higher density developments. Just the way people are nowadays.

      You’re right, high density developments do not, on their own, lead to a greater sense of community and rural townlands can be very close-knit. However, I don’t agree that people have changed and become inherently more atomic. I believe the change in behaviour has come about as a result of higher levels of car ownership. With the car

      • there’s no need to shop or go to school locally – so you don’t meet your neighbours in the shops or through your kids’ friends’ parents
      • You meet nobody by chance during your journey so no catching up with your neighbours on the street
      • you have little sense of attachment to your area, it’s just somewhere you live off the N4

      These things are not all bad: schools now compete over a far greater catchment area, ALDI and LIDL bring us low prices and too much community is a bad thing when your neighbourhood resembles Coronation Street where everyone’s ugly and nobody swears.

      The county development plans are now starting to recommend architecture that ‘promotes a sense of community’. How is anyone interpreting this? You can’t and wouldn’t want to stop people owning cars, but you might design a suburb in a fashion that made car use very unattractive for short journeys or trips into town.

    • #748968
      anto
      Participant

      isn’t it true that the architects have ignored the suburbs untill recently which is a shame as it’s where a lot of people live. Often hear that it’s quicker now to get from some commuter town in Kildare into town than it is from say Rathfarnam, How do we remedy this? Build a metro? not going to happen soon is it?

    • #748969
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @Diaspora wrote:

      The most interesting residential land transaction this year without doubt was the CIE sale as Fassaugh Avenue in Cabra, which involved an old cement depot of 9 acres making 28m, but CIE retained a sufficient parcel to develop a platform for a new rail station and incorporated a public right of way into station as part of the contract.

      It is a great develpment, but having said that it took almost 2 years of Platform11 lobbying for it to happen, when it should have been already in the IE development plans as a matter of logic. In 2002 Dr John Lynch of CIE stated that this line though Cabra was a works line to a work tunnel. After P11 challenged this “works tunnel” mularkey, a series of incredible excuses were whipped out to constantly play down the potential of this route. We at Platform11 had endless radio debates with the likes of Barry Kenny of IE, who after all the previous excuses were debunked, then said that curvature on the line was too severe for running passengers trains. This went on and on until P11 went before the Oireachtas Transport Commitee with everything from photos of passenger trains entering and exiting the tunnel (the previous weekend!) to satelite images of the line’s curves showing them to have a greater radius that the curves on several parts of the DART. The Oireachtas Transport Commitee a few weeks later travelled on a special train along the route and lo and behold a few months later IE decide that the line is good for commuter services after all.

      It is great that this change came about, but it took our group having to go to extraordiary lenghts to get to this situation where land was retained at Cabra for a future station. Why this is, I have no idea. But I can state that if it was not up to P11 kicking and shouting to everybody who would listen about the untapped potential of the Phoenix Park-Spencer dock line though Cabra chances are they would have retained nothing at the old cement terminal for a future station. It is great to see this happen, but it was not because of a sense of sudden enlightment within the boardroom of CIE. Not by a long shot.

      We are currently planning to promote the idea of Drumcondra Station as a rail/bus interchange – what you wanna bet we’ll have to fight CIE to do what they should be doing without us having to explain to them what integrated public transport actually is. Remember, this is the company who built a bus station on one side of Boyne across from the train station and called it integrated.

      Common sense in Ireland seems to only come up for consideration after the need to test the limits of stupidity and self defeatism have been fully explored. Cabra station is a classic example of this.

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