A co-living development at Dublin's Phibsborough shopping centre has been granted permission by An Bord Pleanála, the first co-living scheme approved by the board since Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien moved to ban their construction.
Mr O’Brien last November announced a de facto ban on new co-living developments, where shared kitchen and living facilities serve multiple en suite rooms.
However, the ban was not signed into law until December 22nd and in the intervening weeks MM Capital, owner of the Phibsborough shopping centre, submitted an application to An Bord Pleanála for a co-living scheme with 321 single rooms.
The company already had planning permission to redevelop the 1960s complex, long regarded as an eyesore in the area, for student accommodation. This development, granted two years ago, would have provided accommodation for 341 students at the site.
In granting permission the board has further reduced the number of rooms from 321 to 297. Its inspector noted while Mr O’Brien’s department had issued a circular to planning authorities advising of plans to end co-living, prior to the application being made, the change did not come into effect until after the application was received by the board, therefore the scheme was “assessed on its merits”.
Derek Poppinga, managing director of MM Capital, said the provision of student accommodation had increased substantially since the company had originally secured planning permission.
“The reason we changed to co-living was there had been a lot of student accommodation locally, but there was a huge demand for co-living that had not been met.”
Mr Poppinga said he was aware there had been objections to co-living, but said the restrictions of the site meant it was not suitable for standard apartments, and he said there was a desire for the type of accommodation co-living provided.
“I think opposition to co-living is often driven by a lack of understanding of what it is. It is not the answer to the housing crisis, it is targeted to serve a section of the market who want social and enjoyable shared living.”
Construction is expected to start early next year and take two years to complete, which should align, Mr Poppinga said, with Dublin City Council's redevelopment of the adjoining Dalymount Park.
The council last Friday announced it had received a €1 million Government grant for a new 6,000-capacity football stadium it hopes to complete ahead of the 2025 soccer season. The co-living scheme would include a civic space linking Phibsborough Road to the North Circular Road with access to Dalymount Park.
Several local politicians had objected to the co-living scheme. Labour Senator Marie Sherlock said there was an overconcentration of “transient accommodation” in the area and “the co-living solution put forward does not meet the actual housing need in the Phibsborough and wider northwest inner city area”.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said granting permission for the scheme would be “intolerable” and co-living developments were “driven by investors seeking to exploit the high demand for housing and apartments in our urban centres”.