Turning student accommodation into rooms for tourists is “contrary” to government policy at a time of an acute crisis, the Dáil has heard.
Labour leader Alan Kelly told Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that, in Dublin, developers of luxury student apartments are now trying to change their planning permission so they can be used as hotels for tourists.
A recent application to do the same in Cork was rejected by Cork City Council as planners were concerned it would "set an undesirable precedent" for other purpose-built student accommodation complexes.
Mr Varadkar made clear this is an issue the Government is aware of and an announcement is pending in the coming weeks.
“The Government needs to find holistic solutions to this issue over the coming years," he said to Mr Varadkar. "Will it work with our bill to ensure that speculators cannot use the planning system to change purpose-built student accommodation into apartments for tourists?”
In response, the Tánaiste said the Minister for Further and Higher Education is aware of several student accommodation developments in Dublin that have applied for and received planning permission for ancillary use of their properties for short-term visitor accommodation. This provision is temporary and will lapse in May, 2022, he said.
“However, for accommodation to be removed from student use at a time when there are significant student accommodation shortages runs contrary to the national student accommodation strategy and is contrary to Government policy,” he added.
“For this reason, officials are engaging with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on this matter,” Mr Varadkar said.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty asked whether the Department of Finance is to impose an additional levy on premiums that will ultimately be paid by the consumer.
“The Government is proposing another one to fund a bailout for the industry; not a windfall tax on industry profit to cover costs after the event but a levy imposed on consumers. I ask that the Government get real and rule out this proposal.”
The Tánaiste said his understanding from the Minister for Finance is that he is not proposing a new or additional levy. It is just a review of the existing levies.