A ban on building rental properties that do not meet minimum size standards is set to come into effect in Dublin, while scrapping controversial Build to Rent (BTR) regulations.
Regulations introduced in 2018 by then Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy meant that blocks of flats built for the rental market did not have to meet the minimum size standards for apartments for sale, and requirements for other amenities such as storage space and outdoor space were significantly reduced.
Late last year, housing minister Darragh O’Brien indicated he planned to scrap separate standards for rental-only housing and require new BTR blocks to meet the same specifications as general market housing.
In recent months, new guidelines, the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments 2023, have been issued to local authorities, which state that “the standard for BTR development is now the same as for all other permitted apartment developments “.
The guidelines contain “transitional arrangements” to enable the processing of BTR applications that were already in the planning system by December 21, 2022.
The changes only apply to standards in residential complexes, and complexes can continue to be owned by institutional investors and held on the rental market as long as they meet the same standards as general housing.
Dublin City Council will now begin the process of amending the City Development Plan to allow the changes to take effect.
At the end of last year, fewer than 3,000 rental homes were under construction in Dublin and almost 9,000 more had received approval but construction had yet to begin, according to the Department of Housing. Almost 11,000 remain in the planning system, many of which are subject to judicial review proceedings.
The council had already included restrictions on BTR developments in the urban development plan completed last year, which had led to conflict with the planning authority.
The Dublin City Development Plan for 2022-2028 requires that at least 60 per cent of homes in any BTR scheme must be “standard housing”, meaning they must meet the same size and space requirements as homes in the general housing market
In a ten-month dispute, the planning regulator’s office had ordered the council not to introduce restrictions because there was “no national policy basis in the Minister’s guidelines” for setting a percentage of “to-let developments must conform to other internal design standards.”
However, the development plan, including the 60 percent restriction, was ratified by city councilors in November 2022. At around the same time, Mr O’Brien indicated that he intended to abolish the lower BTR standards, and the regulator took no action against the council for disregarding his orders.
In a briefing to be presented to councilors on Monday, council officials said that “the government’s review of BTR has determined that a sufficient amount of BTR is now either permitted or needs to be taken into account as part of the planning system” and BTR developments are “no longer identified” as a specific residential typology requiring specific guidance/design standards for the purposes of the planning system.”
The council’s proposal to amend the existing development plan must be advertised for a statutory public consultation period of four weeks before councilors are asked to formally ratify the change.