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Co-living development hits the buffers

Words: Roger Milne
Darrach Obrien

Ireland's housing and local government minister Darragh O’Brien this week announced what amounts to a virtual blanket ban on co-living schemes.

He has decided to amend the 2018 Planning Guidelines which triggered a flurry of schemes. This move would see co-living developments severely restricted. To get the go-ahead they would need a specific planning policy requirement (SPPR) and permission from the local authority.

The minister said: “I believe this is the correct decision and it is one I have come to following careful consideration.

“I believe the number of applications and permissions to date are comparatively high in the international context.

“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.

“I also believe the location of a substantial number of the potential co-living sites is not in keeping with the high-density urban centres originally envisaged and that inappropriate locations away from the core city centre have undermined the concept.”

Co-living schemes were encouraged by O’Brien’s predecessor Eoghan Murphy, but triggered much criticism from the public, the opposition and local authorities. Many claimed the “trendy boutique hotels” that the then-housing minister called them were more like “21st-century bedsits” and “tenement dwellings”.

The proposed designs would see tenants have their own bedroom and en suite bathroom but would share living spaces and a kitchen, similar to student accommodation.

The co-living apartments were aimed at young professionals who couldn’t afford their own place. O’Brien acknowledged that the new policy could not be applied retrospectively so schemes already in the planning system will not be caught by the ban.