Co-living applications already in process cannot be stopped despite ban

Co-living applications already in process cannot be stopped despite ban

The co-living development proposed for Dun Laoghaire by Bartra. 

Planning applications for co-living developments which were lodged before the housing minister banned such accommodation cannot be stopped.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien has confirmed that co-living developments lodged while the legislation for such accommodation was under review can proceed.

Co-living developments include rooms of about 18 sq metres with shared kitchen and living facilities among large numbers of people. 

It has been widely criticised by opposition politicians and building experts as the modern equivalent of "tenement living", with concerns about the effect on public health in light of the pandemic as well as living standards.

The minister was criticised for "dithering" on the issue, opting to conduct a review on the issue before banning the practice, which he said was necessary.

The ban was not signed into law until December 22 and, meanwhile, the owner of the Phibsborough shopping centre in Dublin submitted an application to An Bord Pleanála for a co-living scheme with 321 single rooms.

During the time from the minister receiving the report on co-living to introducing the ban, the number of live co-living applications doubled from seven to 14. 

These plans could see more than 1,000 co-living beds added to the 2,000 units already approved for Dublin.

"I said, in opposition, I was opposed to co living," Mr O'Brien said.

"When I became minister, I commissioned a study on this. I sought options from my department, and I banned co-living. 

"What I did say, at the time, was that any application that was already granted or, indeed, in the system, they would have lodged them on the basis of the previous planning guidelines in 2018." 

I legally can't change that.

"But I've been very clear of the government's view on co-living that it's not where I see a solution or even a part solution to our housing crisis."

None of the co-living developments approved have been built yet, the minister noted.

He said the study was "very efficiently published" but "there was always going to be a gap and it was always going to be the case that the system would be assessed".

A circular, issued to local authorities and seen by the Irish Examiner, states in the foreword from the minister: "(Co-living) due to its specific nature, has a limited, ‘niche’ role to play in the provision of the new residential accommodation within Ireland’s cities.

"There are sufficient shared accommodation/co-living units either permitted or subject to consideration within the planning system, that may be built out to demonstrate and prove this concept.

"The principal purpose of issuing this technical update to the guidelines is... introducing a specific planning policy requirement (SPPR) for a presumption against the granting of planning permission for co-living development."

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