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Dublin Council Considering Log Cabins In Back Gardens As Solution To Housing Crisis

Dublin Council Considering Log Cabins In Back Gardens As Solution To Housing Crisis

A brief illustrative vignette of the dire future that awaits all those hoping to reside in Dublin.

Scene 1: [EXT] Outside a 3 bedroom family home

An estate agent stands with you outside a suburban 3 bedroom house. You allow your gaze to wander over the surprisingly expansive drive, taking in the neatly manicured patch of grass, the small flower bed and the gravel. You admire the gravel. You have never admired gravel before, but soon, you think, soon this could be your gravel. You enjoy the thought of owning gravel. You take in the smooth red-brick facade of the house one more time. "This is really nice." The estate agent looks at you, a wry grin playing across his face. "Why don't you follow me inside?" He suggests, opening the front door with a flourish. You briefly lock eyes with the estate agent, your breath slows, your heart races. You follow him inside.

Scene 2: [INT] Inside the 3 bedroom family home

The hall was long and luxurious. In the kitchen there is an island and one of those fridge-freezers that has a water dispenser on the front of it and a little digital display showing you live temperature readings. There is also an Aga. You have no idea what the benefits of an Aga are over a traditional oven, but it feels right. It feels right that you - the same you that once ate grass for a bet in school, the you that accidentally hungover-vomited in a lecture in college - that you, now being in full possession of an Aga. You peer through into the sitting room. A large L-shaped brown leather sofa peers back at you. The large L-shaped sofa even has a matching pouffe. You can imagine yourself on that couch, reclining with your feet perched atop the pouffe, wiling away a Sunday morning watching a movie.

You turn to the estate agent, astonishment etched on your face. "This is astounding." He nods, that same wry grin still hanging on his lips. "I'll take it," you enthusiastically burble. A glint in the estate agent's eye. "Oh this isn't what you're here to view, this is Ms. Stevens' house." You can sense how he is delighting, reveling in watching the hope drain from your face. "What you'll be viewing is out here. Follow me," he ominously repeats.

Scene 3: [EXT] The back garden of the 3 bedroom family home

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"This is what you're here to see." You feel the disappoint wash over you. Great crashing waves of it drowning the elation you briefly felt. You stare at it, sitting there, in the garden in front of you. "But it's a log cabin in a stranger's garden," you implore. "Yes," the estate agent replies, "and if you meet the asking price it could be your log cabin in Ms. Stevens' garden."

Scene 4: [INT] Log cabin, 2 years later.

You sit there, in your log cabin. The thick midnight air surrounding you, like a barrier, separating you from the world. The tears come thick and fast. You try to stem them, to not weep too loudly - conscious of the fact that Ms. Stevens will complain if there are any loud noises after 9.30pm. "How has it come to this," you lament, staring at the piles of empty bean cans that have accrued around the feet of your musty futon, "How has it come to this?"

End.

This is the future that awaits us all. Every one of us fostering the audacious and foolhardy aspiration to one day, perhaps, own something that can be roughly called a home. Us pie-eyed dreamers have only disappointment and the promise of a prolonged and financially necessitated residency in a log-cabin to look forward to. Such is the state of the housing crisis in Dublin.

People Before Profit Councillor John Lyons, has sought for Dublin City Council to show greater tolerance for people looking to build log cabins in their gardens, in order to help alleviate the housing crisis. He brought the motion to the council after a case where a couple in Raheny who, unable to afford a house and looking for somewhere to live, decided to buy and install a log cabin in the back of one of their parents' houses. However after having done so, neighbours complained about the construction and they face the prospect of having their home taken away from them.

The current law states that log cabins may be built without the need for planning permission up to a size of 25sq m. However larger ones, which on paper need planning permission, can, if no neighbours object, be built with the council turning a blind eye to them. John Lyons has called for this to be relaxed so that more people may build log cabins in their gardens. Speaking to The Irish Times he said:

Planners I have spoken to acknowledge there is a proliferation of log cabins across the city in parents’ or friends’ back gardens that people are living in. It’s a response to the housing crisis. [I want the council to] amend planning regulations to allow for the construction of temporary structures for residential purposes at the rear of the residential properties.

While the extent of the Dublin housing crisis evidently calls for some outside of the box thinking, it's a rather damning indictment of the state of affairs that the solution that thinking comes to is to house people in little more than wooden boxes. While John Lyons' suggestion is evidently a well-intentioned and reasonable attempt to make the reality that people are being forced to live in more bearable, the fact that it is becoming de rigeur for one rung on people's ascent on the property ladder to involve living in a glorified shed at the bottom of someone else's garden is perhaps the most shameful critique of how unfair the housing market has become.

Why stop at log cabins though? It is surely easier for policy-makers to, rather than tackle exploitative rental hikes preventing people from being able to save, rather than dealing with development companies holding vast tracts of centrally located undeveloped land with the sole intention of selling it on at the highest price, suggest people gradually lower their expectations for what could reasonably constitute a home. Why don't we content ourselves with the idea of living in a cave? Or who even really needs a roof, why don't we all just look forward to taking up residence under the protective foliage of some large hedge? Why not just dig a hole and lie in it? Lie in the hole, lie in the gutter and stare up at the stars as without a roof, you'll have no choice.

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Rory McNab

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