Dublin City Council defies planning regulator over build-to-rent rules

New development plan will restrict build-to-rent schemes to 40 per cent of a development

Dublin City Council is on a collision with the planning regulator after councillors defied the regulator’s orders on the construction of build-to-rent (BTR) schemes in the city.

In the final stages of determining the new city development plan councillors have agreed to limit numbers of the controversial rental-only apartments to a maximum of 40 per cent of any complex.

The move is in direct conflict with the orders of the regulator, who has told the council there is no national policy basis for the curbs.

Since the beginning of the year the Office of the Planning Regulator has been at loggerheads with the council over proposals to tighten controls on the development of BTR apartment blocks in the city.


The draft city development plan for 2022-2028 proposed at least 40 per cent of complexes must meet the requirements of “standard build-to-sell apartments”. BTR apartments do not have to comply with minimum size standards and other space requirements of homes for sale.

Last February deputy planning regulator Anne Marie O’Connor told the council the restrictions clashed with national policy as there was “no national policy grounding in the Minister’s guidelines” for specifying “that 40 per cent of build-to-rent developments are to be of a different set of internal design standards”. She directed the council to remove the policy from the draft plan.

However, in May council chief executive Owen Keegan recommended councillors press ahead with restrictions citing the “over-dominance” of BTR schemes in the city which he said had the potential for “significant long-term adverse impacts on the housing needs of the city”.

In proposing amendments to the draft plan last July councillors decided to up the ante, voting in favour of a motion proposed by Independent councillor Nial Ring to increase the number of homes which must meet the higher build-to-sell standards to 60 per cent.

Councillors agreed the July motion against the recommendation of Mr Keegan and city planner John O’Hara who said the 60 per cent requirement “may have a negative impact on the housing market and the achievement of much-needed housing development in the city”.

The planning regulator wrote again to the council last month noting its concerns had not been addressed and directing the council omit the restrictive BTRs provisions.

At a meeting to ratify the new plan on Monday night, councillors agreed to support Cllr Ring’s proposal and set the requirement for 60 per cent of apartments to meet build-to-sell standards into the final development plan that will govern development in the city for the next five years.

Cllr Ring noted Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien had recently indicated he intended to abolish BTR schemes. “Given the Minister for Housing’s recent statement that ‘there is no longer a planning rationale to retain BTR as a separate development type subject to more flexible design standards’, it could be argued that these entire Build to Rent references in the Development Plan be deleted,” Cllr Ring said.

Mr O’Hara said while he was aware of the Minister’s comments “about getting rid of build-to-rent altogether”, the council had not had any formal communication in relation to the matter.

Cllr Ring said in the absence of full abolition, the 40 per cent limitation would help restrict the creation of new “tenements” in the city.s

The council has five working days to inform the regulator it does not intend to comply with its orders. The regulator can then advise the Minister to direct the council to implement the orders.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times