Council planning chief warns against log cabins in back gardens
Extra family accommodation could be used by ‘unscrupulous landlords’ city planner John O’Hara
People Before Profit councillor John Lyons wants a change to the development plan so that families could provide accommodation for relatives who are facing high rents and homelessness. File photograph:James Forde
Unscrupulous landlords could provide substandard accommodation for vulnerable tenants if log cabins are permitted in back gardens of family homes, Dublin City Council’s most senior planner has warned.
People Before Profit councillor John Lyons wants a change to the development plan so that families could provide accommodation for relatives who are facing high rents and homelessness.
A current provision in the development plan to allow for so-called granny flats stipulates that “ancillary family accommodation” must have direct access to the rest of the house and must “not be a separate detached unit”.
Mr Lyons wants this section changed to allow a “free-standing structure to the rear or side of the main family dwelling”. The proposal was a “sensible reaction to an irrational and out of control housing market”, he told a council planning meeting on Tuesday.
“It is quite clear that we have a generation of young families who have been literally locked out of the housing market,” he said. “Some families are buying log cabins as a way to escape all this madness, save some money with the aim of having enough for a deposit in two-to-four years.”
City planner John O’Hara said while he agreed with the “general sentiment” there was a considerable risk that such a provision would be abused.
“There is a real concern that such a proposal may result in substandard accommodation particularly if there are unscrupulous landlords involved,” he said. “You can imagine the situation; it doesn’t have to be one ancillary accommodation at the back garden, it becomes two or three.”
Mr O’Hara also had “grave concerns” about the council’s ability to enforce rules in relation to ensuring a “cabin at the back of someone’s house” was being used by a family member and not for profit.
Fianna Fáil councillor Daithí de Róiste said the cost of buying and installing such cabins typically ran to €45,000. “I think the only people who can afford them will be unscrupulous people who intend to rent them out.”
Labour councillors Dermot Lacey and Andrew Montague supported Mr Lyons’ proposal. Mr Lacey said it “reflected the reality of what’s happening all over the city”. Mr Montague said he wanted to see higher densities in the suburbs, although he questioned how it could be ensured the accommodation was only used by family members.
The decision to initiate a change to the development plan could only be made by the council chief executive, Mr O’Hara said. However, he agreed to explore the matter further and bring a report to the full council in February.