Councillors vote to further tighten restrictions on build-to-rent developments

City councillors vote in favour of a motion to increase the number of homes which must meet build-to-sell standard to 60 per cent

Dublin city councillors have doubled down on their resistance to orders from the planning regulator to drop planned restrictions on the development of build-to-rent (BTR) schemes in the city.

Councillors have voted to further tighten restrictions on BTR construction which will mean fewer small apartments can be built in the city.

The draft city development plan required BTR schemes of more than 100 homes to have at least 40 per cent of properties that meet the requirements of “standard build-to-sell apartments”. BTR apartments do not have to comply with minimum size standards and other space requirements of homes for sale.

Deputy planning regulator Anne Marie O’Connor earlier this year told the council the build-to-rent curbs clashed with national policy as there was “no national policy grounding in the Minister’s guidelines” for specifying “that 40 per cent of build-to-rent developments are to be of a different set of internal design standards”. She directed the council to remove the policy from the draft plan.

However, councillors have instead decided to up the ante, voting in favour of a motion proposed by Independent councillor Nial Ring to increase the number of homes which must meet build-to-sell standard to 60 per cent.

Mr Ring said he was entirely opposed to BTR schemes, but he said increasing the number of apartments which must meet higher standards to 60 per cent would “give an indication that we want to discourage build-to-rent” in the city.

“I see our old friend the Office of the Planning Regulator [OPR] seems to be all over this,” he said, “which is enough for me to put it to a vote and let’s send out a signal that we don’t want build-to-rent.”

Councillors agreed the motion against the recommendation of chief executive Owen Keegan and city planner John O’Hara who said the 60 per cent requirement “may have a negative impact on the housing market and the achievement of much-needed housing development in the city”.

Mr Keegan and Mr O’Hara had supported the 40 per cent requirement saying the “over-dominance” of BTR schemes in Dublin had become “unsustainable” with the potential to have “significant long-term adverse impacts on the housing needs of the city”.

While not commenting on the councillors’ specific decision, a spokesman for the OPR said it would be conducting a further assessment of the development plan.

“As part of this assessment, if the OPR considers that statutory requirements, national or regional policy, and/or ministerial guidelines have not been correctly applied, it can make recommendations to the local authority to address the matter.”

Planning regulator Niall Cussen has in recent months declined two invitations to attend a city council meeting to explain his office’s orders for BTR schemes.

Mr Cussen indicated his attendance at a council meeting would likely spark a flurry of similar requests from other local authorities. In a letter to the previous lord mayor Alison Gilliland, he said: “If we were to facilitate one authority’s request for attendance at a special meeting, facilitating likely other requests from all 31 local authorities would be very difficult for us to manage.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times