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Murphy releases statement after he suggests co-living spaces are like a 'very trendy boutique hotel'

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been heavily criticised in recent months over co-living accommodation.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

Updated Jul 19th 2019, 3:39 PM

MINISTER FOR HOUSING Eoghan Murphy has suggested co-living spaces are like “a very trendy” boutique hotel. 

In May, Murphy told a conference that co-living blocks offer an “exciting” choice to young workers. 

In the weeks that followed, the Minister received significant backlash from opposition politicians and members of the public over his statement.

The debate about co-living emerged shortly before his comments on foot of a developer’s plans to build a block of 208 studio dwellings which would see dozens of people sharing one kitchen.

The proposed Dublin development would be one of the first “co-living” buildings that became permissible under design standard guidelines for new apartments that were introduced in March 2018.

The Bartra Capital Property Group applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission to build a five-floor building on Eblana Avenue in Dun Laoghaire. If approved, the plans would see the construction of a building with 208 “single occupancy bedspaces”.

‘Not at all like a prison’

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Murphy said co-living is a something he has seen abroad in other cities “where you have your own private room, ensuite, but you also then have shared community spaces, a gym, a movie room, a games room, potentially, a kitchen, a living room”. 

Presenter Kieran Cuddihy, at this point, compared what Murphy was describing to a prison. 

Murphy replied:

Sorry, no, not at all like a prison, I mean if you’ve been in one of these places it’s not at all, it’s more like a very trendy, kind of, boutique hotel, type place, right.

Murphy referred back to his own experience of renting and said: “I can think to my own experience where when I moved out of student accommodation to my first flat, myself and two girls who I didn’t know shared a bathroom. I had a small bedroom, we shared a small kitchen, there wasn’t a living room.

“I would have much preferred my own ensuite bedroom and to have the chance to meet other people to get to know them because I was new to that country.”

Murphy said that some people have connected the ideal of co-living “to certain ideas” which are different to that of the government’s idea. 

“The problem is that perhaps when the co-living was presented by some people, they were trying to present it [as] this is what we were saying we wanted the new rental market to look like – it is not,” Murphy said, adding that “less than 1%” of new places to live this year will be co-living. 

“It’s an option for some, but only a very few people,” he said. 

Criticism from the public

Responding to the furore this afternoon, Murphy said that his “analogy wasn’t a good one” but still defended co-living. 

Documents obtained by TheJournal.ie under Freedom of Information last month showed that Minister Murphy received multiple written complaints from members of the public over his comments that co-living spaces are an “exciting” choice to young workers. 

“This latest idea is just a step too far and I need to contact you and inform you of the anger I feel at this latest stunt you and your government are attempting to pull. I wonder if you would be willing to reside in these ‘hubs’ yourself? I doubt it very much,” one person wrote to the Minister.

Another person said Murphy’s comments are “an absolute insult to the intelligent smart generation working in our capital city”. 

One person also slammed the proposals as a “complete joke”. 

Co-living plans

The regulations dealing with co-living developments were launched back in 2017 – with those in government stating that they were largely welcomed. 

At the time, it is understood the model was based on The Collective Old Oak shared apartments in London, which is the world’s largest co-living building with a community of over 500.

The LifeX development is another model cited as an example that the Irish system might be modelled upon. It has living spaces in Munich, Vienna, and Copenhagen, with prices ranging from €700 to €1,500 per individual, depending on the city.

Most recently, a proposed development of over 200 co-living units was refused by An Bord Pleanála earlier this week. 

The application by Bartra Property would have seen 222 co-living units and 150 apartments built at the Cookstown Industrial Estate in Tallaght.

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