Dublin must turn to urban high-rise living to cope with its rapid growth, according to Bank of Ireland chief executive Francesca McDonagh.
“Within a short walk of where we are this morning, there are thousands of people who have travelled long distances to get to work. This is not sustainable,” Ms McDonagh told an Ibec conference at the Dublin Convention Centre.
“Housing was the issue that dominated our recent election - and for obvious reasons,” she said. “We are pushing another generation away from the capital, condemning them to energy-sapping, time-consuming, oil-guzzling commutes.”
Ms McDonagh, the former HSBC executive who took the helm at Bank of Ireland in 2017, said her previous city postings had high-rise apartments at their heart - and Dublin should too.
“One thing that really surprised me about Dublin was the sprawl of the city and the flatness of the skyline,” she said, noting that the city is projected to gain 1 million residents and need 500,000 more houses by 2040.
She said home building within Dublin had increased by only 2pc last year, while the construction of homes outside the M50 in surrounding counties had risen by 40pc. Less than a fifth of new home completions nationwide were apartments, compared with an EU average of 59pc.
“Dublin again is sprawling,” she said. “I think we need to have a more honest and open debate about building up, and challenge ourselves to deliver higher-rise, higher-density accommodation with good urban design and transport links to meet the demands that we can see on the horizon.”
She said development in Belfast, Cork, Limerick and Galway likewise should discourage further suburban sprawl.
“I would encourage the next Government - however it is composed - to urgently examine how it can deliver higher-density and higher-rise development as smoothly, as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” she said.
At the same event, Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said the next Government must deliver “a surging demand for public infrastructure and public services”.
He said the State’s publicly financed resources were too small to compete with the power of private global wealth, which was investing more than €2bn a week into the Irish economy - “an incredible sum”.
Private firms, he said, were creating 25 times as many jobs as the Government and this imbalance could not continue. The next Government, he said, must spend and invest wisely to rebuild “the capacity of a State that is getting smaller before our eyes”.
“The Government, because of its scale restrictions, will not be able to solve the problems that the electorate told them at the weekend they want solved: health and housing,” Mr McCoy said. “Who here believes that the State can out-compete the private sector for scarce construction resources?”
He said the next Government must take steps to spur greater Irish participation in the labour force by developing “new solutions around childcare, congestion and flexible working”.