Planning law changes to protect duration of student accommodation

Government will move to ensure availability of academic year leases of about 40 weeks, Minister for Higher Education says

Proposals to change planning laws to ensure the mandatory lease period for student accommodation is confined to the academic year are set to be brought to Cabinet within weeks.

The Government has been considering possible actions that could be taken in the wake of recent instances of student housing operators offering students only 51-week tenancies for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has now said the Government intends to amend planning laws to ensure leases for the academic year of about 40 weeks are available to students.

Mr Harris said there were two aspects to the issue, firstly that “people get planning permission on the basis of providing student accommodation and I think there’s very legitimate issues that need to be considered by the planning authorities”.


He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland he had looked at specific conditions of planning granted in some instances where people had sought permission for student accommodation and had said they intended to operate it in a way that included 40-week leases.

“This week I’ll write to the planning authorities where such facilities are, asking that they consider whether these facilities are operating in compliance with their planning.”

Mr Harris said that, secondly, he and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien “now intend to amend the law to make it absolutely crystal clear that when student accommodation is granted, from a planning permission point of view, that the mandatory lease period would be confined to the current academic year. And of course the student can extend it if they wish, but can’t be compelled to.

“And Minister O’Brien and I intend to bring policy proposals to Cabinet next month ... in relation to that matter.”

Mr Harris also said the issue “highlights the real need to change the policy approach to student accommodation, to build more college-owned student accommodation, to be less reliant on the private market.

“That’s why we’re now investing money in building, for example, college-owned accommodation in DCU, Maynooth and across the country.”

The Minister added that student accommodation was covered under rent pressure zone regulations.

“And in addition to that, and it’s important parents know this, that we’ve now also, with Michael McGrath in the Finance Act, made sure that if you’re a parent paying for your student’s rent, your child’s rent, you can now claim the renters’ tax credit of €750 for this year. And you can also backdate for previous years.”

Asked about the timescale for bringing about a change to the planning laws, a Department of Housing spokesman said: “Minister Harris and Minister O’Brien, alongside their department officials, have been working on this matter.

“Both Ministers agree the actions of these providers is unacceptable and the Government intends to legislate to ensure contracts are confined to the academic year.

“This will be done through a legislative amendment following Government approval for the same. As this has not yet been to Cabinet it would be premature to advise on timelines.”

  • See our new project Common Ground, Evolving Islands: Ireland & Britain
  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times