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Dublin City Council has decided not to go ahead with a proposal to sell property on Berkeley Street in the north inner-city to the Cabhru Housing Association Service (CHAS), a council spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Instead, it now intends to develop the site itself.
The earlier plan was for the council to dispose of the complex, called James McSweeney House, to CHAS, so that it could get financing to redevelop the site.
Some councillors had opposed that, though – citing how CHAS had earlier moved out social-housing tenants and moved in students, but also raising concerns around governance and the suggestion that one or more flats in CHAS’ complexes had been used for purposes other than social housing.
A council spokesperson said the council management now intends to ask Cabhru “to surrender” its existing lease on the property to the council “with the objective of carrying out the development of the site ourselves” as social housing for older people.
“We will not be making any further comments on this matter at this stage,” they said.
Regulating Short-Term Lets
Since new regulations came in last July, Dublin City Council has investigated 465 allegations of unauthorised short-term lets.
It’s currently bringing one prosecution for a breach of planning law, said James Cosgrave, a planning enforcement officer with Dublin City Council, on Tuesday afternoon at a meeting of the council’s planning committee at City Hall.
According to a data project,Inside Airbnb, there were 9,437 listings on Airbnb in the Dublin region as of November 2019. Of those, 4,663 were entire homes.
Cosgrave ran through the enforcement process. First step is a warning letter, Cosgrave said. After that, the council does an inspection, and if it finds a breach, they issue an enforcement notice, he says.
That requires the person to stop the unauthorised use of the property and allows them “an appropriate time” to comply, he said. If they don’t, criminal proceedings will be brought, he said.
Under the regulations, short-term letting of an “entire home” is permitted for up to 90 days a year as long as the house or apartment is the host’s private principal residence.
Renting rooms in a house, that the owner or main tenant is also occupying, on short-term-let platforms is permitted for up to four rooms and including up to four persons staying in each room, he said.
In both those situations, the person doing the short-term letting must notify the council, he said.
Renting an “entire home” for more than 90 days a year is a short-term-let business and the host must apply for planning permission, he said.
Since last July the council has received 334 notifications from people to say they were short-term letting their home or a room in it and 88 of those were received so far in 2020, he says.
Contrary to what has been reported in the media, “there is no general policy on refusing applications for short-term lets”, said Richard Shakespeare, assistant chief executive at Dublin City Council.
City Planner John O’Hara said the council follows guidance from the Department of Housing when it’s deciding whether to grant applications. “Bearing in mind the aim of the policy is to ensure there is no loss of permanent residential units,” he said.
Each application is assessed on a “case-by-case basis” and permission might be granted if the location is deemed unsuitable for permanent homes. For example, if the apartments are located “over a very loud public house”, then permission for short-term letting might be granted, said O’Hara.
Dublin City Council now has 10 people focused on planning breaches in relation to short-term letting, he said.
Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey welcomed the focus on addressing the issue of short-term lets. He asked if the Department of Housing was funding all those jobs.
Cosgrave said it is.
“I welcome it,” said Lacey. “A rare bit of decency from the Customs House.”
A Metric for Land Sales
Councillors were unsure about whether to back a motion from Labour’s Alison Gilliland, calling for an independent assessment each time the council proposes to sell a site of more than 300 sqm.
The assessment should outline the potential for the land to be used for housing or, failing that, to look at whether it could be used for recreation, sports or art, said the motion, put before the planning committee on Tuesday.
And “guidance as to whether and to what extent the monetary benefit to the council from disposing of the site outweighs the long-term social and economic benefit foregone in terms of the necessary development of housing and other public uses”, said the motion.
Gilliland, who chairs the council’s housing committee, also wants conditions placed on any future land sales to ensure that work is commenced speedily and “to prevent the land from being hoarded or left unused”. (In the past, those conditions haven’t always been followed.)
She was not at the meeting but her party colleague, Councillor Dermot Lacey, asked that the motion be agreed. “This is one of the key powers that councillors have,” he said. “As everyone knows there has been a lot of controversy around this.”
Richard Shakespeare, assistant chief executive at Dublin City Council, said it would be tough bringing in an independent expert to assess each piece of land in that way.
The council has an active land-management unit with all of the assistant chief executives, the senior architects and the city valuer. They look at not just the value of the land but also the local area plans and the needs of the area.
“It would be difficult to identify an independent service provider that would have the same skill sets as the council,” he said. “It is most unlikely that such outsourcing could be achieved.”
Councillors are briefed locally about the potential sale of land, which allows for input at a very early stage, Shakespeare said.
The motion as worded would result in a process that was both cumbersome and expensive, he said. He suggested that, instead, the council management work together with Gilliland and the planning committee to decide on agreed criteria for selling land.
“I’d rather have a general consensus around it,” he said. “If we have an open set of criteria.”
Lacey said he didn’t agree with several aspects of the report outlined by Shakespeare.
Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam, who chairs the planning committee, suggested that the report be circulated to all councillors and debated at the next meeting of the planning committee, which is set for April. The motion was deferred until then.