Minister for Housing to ban new co-living developments

Darragh O’Brien concerned about location and volume of planned developments

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has told officials he is concerned about the potential of planned co-living developments to undermine Government housing policies and put upward pressure on land prices. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has told officials he is concerned about the potential of planned co-living developments to undermine Government housing policies and put upward pressure on land prices. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will today issue a de facto ban on new co-living developments, which the Taoiseach has previously warned could become “glorified tenement living”.

Mr O’Brien has told officials he is concerned about the volume of co-living developments in the pipeline and the planned locations, as well as their potential to undermine Government housing policies and put upward pressure on land prices.

In co-living developments residents have their own room but share kitchen and other communal facilities with other residents. 

Mr O'Brien made the decision to ban these developments after receiving a review of the guidelines for co-living, issued in 2018 by the previous minister, Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy.

In an email to officials, seen by The Irish Times, Mr O’Brien says he has decided to amend the 2018 guidelines “to seek to restrict all future commercial co-living development in Ireland”.

The guidelines were widely criticised, including by Mr O’Brien when he was Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman, although proponents of co-living argue it could alleviate pressure on the housing system and cater for a particular demographic niche.

The guidelines allowed for bedrooms of 12sq m – smaller than a car-parking space for disabled people – although most bed spaces envisaged in planning applications lodged so far are larger.

Mr O’Brien wrote: “Given the unprecedented nature of these developments I have concerns that the scale of the developments is moving away from the niche quantity of units the concept originally aimed for to a significantly larger role in the housing system.”

He said the number of units in the pipeline was similar to the limit imposed in the greater Manchester area, on a pro-rata basis. Permitted developments and those already submitted will not be impacted by the new policy.

The location of proposed developments, he said, was “not in keeping with the high-density urban centres originally envisaged”, while “inappropriate locations away from the core city centre have undermined the concept”.

So far, there have been 14 co-living applications: five approved and two refused. A further seven are under consideration. A total of 1,670 bed spaces have either been approved or are in the planning process.

Mr O’Brien told officials co-living could “potentially have a negative impact” on programme for government goals to deliver 50,000 social homes, and focus more on home ownership and cost-rental models. There was also a risk that due to the number of beds in a single development and the number of applications, land prices could be driven up by the developments.

Mr O’Brien will sign regulations today to give effect to his decision, in the form of a specific planning policy requirement with a presumption against a grant of permission for co-living or shared development.