Proposals for new homes and tenant protection to go to Cabinet

Laws to fast-track planning for new homes and to protect tenants from vulture funds will be presented to Cabinet within days.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney confirmed last night that he plans to bring a detailed suite of proposed new laws to address housing supply to Cabinet and to seek approval for the heads of the bill.

The proposals are linked to several initiatives within the Government’s ambitious €5bn Rebuilding Ireland programme, which require legislative changes, he said.

And while the key measures should speed up the delivery of new homes, Mr Coveney insisted that it is not a charter for developers to build what and where they want.

“We have worked long and hard to ensure that while we get planning decisions in a much more timely fashion, we will protect and maintain the integrity of the planning decision-making process,” he said.

“What I’m saying to developers now is, if you’ve got plans to move ahead with projects, now is the time to get on with it. We will make good planning decisions, but we will make them quickly.”

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

The proposals to fast-track the delivery of new homes include:

  • A streamlined planning decision-making process for all developments over 100 units — whether they be family homes, apartment complexes, student accommodation, or mixed tenure development — on lands already zoned for housing;
  • For the first time, a statutory pre-planning process of consultation with a local authority, to be concluded within a set period of eight to 10 weeks;
  • A new planning application process which will see developers applying directly to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission, with a decision due within 16 weeks.

Mr Coveney said extra resources will be provided to the planning appeals board to ensure it can meet the statutory time-frames.

It is hoped the measures will reduce the waiting time for planning decisions from between 18 months or two years down to just 24-weeks.

If approved, the proposed laws will last for three years, but future ministers will have the ability to renew the measures if needed.

“This will create a much bigger onus on developers to have much higher quality applications because there won’t be a facility for further information or public hearings,” said Mr Coveney.

The details emerged after reports this week from Focus Ireland and Merchant’s Quay showed the rates of homelessness are continuing to rise, and a report from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) report showed rents are soaring.

Focus Ireland said that 72 families became homeless in Dublin in August — bringing to 671 families with 1,257 children the number to become homeless in the capital so far this year.

Proposals for new homes and tenant protection to go to Cabinet

The proposed housing package to be brought before Cabinet the week after next also includes the so-called Tyrellstown Amendment — prompted by the plight of some 100 families in a Dublin development who faced eviction earlier this year after their homes were bought by a vulture fund.

Mr Coveney said that a proposed law will protect tenancies in the event of a change of ownership, as happened in Tyrellstown.

“If more than 20 houses or apartments are being sold from one institutional investor to another, to a so-called vulture fund, we are going to legislate to ensure that the tenancy in place at time of sale remains,” said Mr Coveney.

“It is designed to prevent the sale allowing the new owner to either evict people or to put new tenancies in place and hike the rent.”

The package being brought before Cabinet also contains proposals to give more powers to the RTB to fast-track the resolution of tenancy disputes.

There are also proposals to speed up the change of use of vacant retail or commercial properties which may be suitable for residential use.

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