How Many Co-Living Complexes Have, Maybe, Beaten the Promised Ban?

Muireann Grogan says she is delighted with the recently announced ban on co-living.

A hotel and co-living complex beside her house in the Liberties – which she had campaigned against – was granted permission, though, in the days before Minister of Housing Darragh O’Brien’s statement.

“They got in just literally before the ban,” said Grogan, earlier this week.

Like this Liberties complex, there are thousands of co-living beds in the planning pipeline that critics of the model point out would not be covered by any new restriction, and may still be built.

Dublin City Council also recently okayed requests to use student housing as short-term lets for a time.

That kind of switch could create another form of co-living, says Orla Hegarty, assistant professor at the UCD School of Architecture.

A Change in Policy

The Minister of Housing Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien opposed co-living when he was in opposition. Once in office, he commissioned a report into it.

On 23 November, O’Brien said that he will amend the planning guidelines to restrict future co-living developments. (That means a ban, he clarified on Twitter.)

The Department of Housing didn’t respond in time for publication to queries about whether the ban has already taken effect.

Grogan says that she hopes that the ban will result in more developments of affordable apartments and family homes in the city centre.

Hegarty says: “The ‘ban’ on co-living is, in fact, just a reversal of permitting very small hotel rooms as permanent housing and in residential areas.”

“This was very attractive to developers as deregulation meant that it wasn’t regulated, taxed and managed either as hotels or as apartments,” she says.

There’s still a hangover from past policy, though.

Developers have so far applied to build at least 2,770 co-living rooms,shows a tally of planning applications from a Department of Housing report and research by Hegarty.

Of those, 797 have been granted and the others are as yet undecided.

That’s more than included in the Department of Housing report commissioned by the minister.

The Department of Housing didn’t respond in time for publication to queries about why some of the developments weren’t included in the report.

Six co-living developments have been granted permission in the Dublin region so far, says Alexia O’Brien, a PhD student in Trinity College.

They are on Ardee Road in Rathmines (102), New Row South (69), Rathmines House (110), St Mary’s Place/Mountjoy Street (121) , Spencer Dock (200), and Eblana Avenue in Dun Laoghaire (195).

Six other coliving complexes are working their way through earlier stages of the planning process.

They are Merrion Street (111), Old Naas Road (203) Jervis Street (127), Donnybrook (100), Hill Street (132).

Those applications will not be affected by the ban. That tally isn’t comprehensive, though.

Property developer Bartra has put in a fresh planning application for a 210-bed co-living complex at Brady’s Pub in Castleknock, after the decision to grant permission was overturned in the high court, according to the Irish Times.

Hegarty spotted a few big co-living developments that didn’t feature in the report too.

On Little Green Street, near the old Victorian fruit and veg market in Smithfield, a company called Fruitmarket Partnership has applied for a 360 room co-living complex.

Alphabet ABC Properties has applied for planning permission for a 312 room co-living complex on Cork Street in the Liberties at the site of the old glass factory.

On Dominick Street Lower** **in the north inner-city, Western Way Developments has applied to build a 296 bed co-living complex. Platinum Land have also applied for 122 co-living rooms in Donaghmede.

That brings the figure up to 2,770 co-living rooms, which could potentially go ahead despite the ban, although they may not all get planning permission.

Flipping Uses

Hegarty, the architecture lecturer, says that the recent repurposing of student accommodation for short-term lets also shows how easily these shared models can be flipped to other uses.

Dublin City Council recently granted temporary change of use to operators of four student accommodation complexes, says a council spokesperson.

They can now, due to the impact of Covid-19, rent to tourists or visitors for up to two months, until 31 March 2021, they said. (Often, renting to tourists is limited to the summer.)

It means otherwise vacant buildings will be used, said the spokesperson.

More people staying there “will help bring a greater sense of vitality and vibrancy to the city centre/inner city which is perceived to be suffering from a lack of footfall and general activity”, says the council spokesperson.

Grogan, the Liberties resident, says that student housing is residential housing and “shouldn’t be taken out of residential stock”.

If there is an excess supply of apartments, why not rent some for homeless families as they would be much better than hostels and hotels, she says.

Hegarty says that in London co-living complexes are being used by councils for temporary accommodation.

Says Hegarty: “The real risk now is that these institutional buildings could be seen on paper as a substandard, unhealthy solution to the housing crisis, as in London.”

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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