The "over-dominance" of build-to-rent schemes in Dublin has become "unsustainable" with the potential to have "significant long-term adverse impacts on the housing needs of the city", according to Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan.
Mr Keegan is recommending councillors press ahead with restrictions on the build-to-rent schemes in the new city development plan, in defiance of the State’s planning regulator, which said the build-to-rent curbs clashed with national policy.
A council analysis undertaken in preparation for the development plan found a rapid increase in the dominance of build-to-rent schemes, with numbers rising from just over 15 per cent of all residential schemes applied for or granted in 2018 to almost 82 per cent in 2020.
The office of the planning regulator earlier this year told the council to remove policies from the development plan for 40 per cent of build-to-rent apartments to be larger than required under ministerial guidelines. The council was also ordered not to block the development of small build-to-rent schemes of fewer than 100 apartments.
The draft development plan required build-to-rent schemes of more than 100 homes to have at least 40 per cent of properties that were “standard build-to-sell apartments”. Build-to-rent apartments do not have to have to comply with minimum size standards required in homes for sale. Build-to-rent schemes of fewer than 100 homes would generally not be permitted, as they would not have a “critical mass” to support good communal facilities.
‘No national policy’
In a submission, deputy planning regulator Anne Marie O’Connor said 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”.
Similarly, she said there was “no national or regional policy basis, or any other evidence provided, to support the view that a scheme of [fewer] than 100 units cannot provide meaningful communal facilities and services”.
In his response Mr Keegan said the emergence of “very large schemes solely comprising build-to-rent with a lack of housing mix is considered inappropriate and will not contribute to the creation of long-term viable and stable communities”.
Ministerial guidelines on build-to-rent state it should “augment” existing housing provision, but “virtually all applications for housing” in Dublin city now comprise build-to-rent, he said.
The long-term viability of these blocks was a concern, particularly when they would potentially be available for sale in the future.
“It is noted that many of the build-to-rent schemes are designed to minimum standards and there are significant concerns regarding the wider legacy issues that this poses for the city if such units return to the market,” he said. “In this context, it is considered that there is a pressing need to ensure that a more diverse and higher quality of apartment development is constructed in the city to future-proof our housing supply.”
The policy approach was “appropriate and proportionate”, he said, and would “help avoid legacy issues and will future-proof housing stock to ensure that apartment developments are built to a higher standard with a greater diversity of unit type and size”.
However, he has proposed amended wording so that instead of a requirement for a minimum of 40 per cent “standard build-to-sell apartments”, the plan would state that 40 per cent of “units within a development must be designed as standard apartments”.
It was not intended to entirely preclude schemes of fewer than 100 units, “rather that they should not be the norm”, and he has inserted a provision that they be “considered on a case-by-case basis” as long as a number of other planning criteria were met.