The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (the Department) has recently published new Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Design Standards for New Apartments (the Guidelines). The Guidelines update and replace previous guidelines published in 2015.

The Guidelines were drafted with future housing needs in mind and take account of the Housing Agency National Statement on Housing Demand and Supply, Rebuilding Ireland, Project 2040 and the National Planning Framework (NPF) which have all been published since the last set of guidelines were drafted.

What developments do the Guidelines apply to?

The Guidelines apply to all housing developments that include apartments available for sale. They apply to public and private schemes unless otherwise stated. The Guidelines also apply to apartments, which are built specifically for rental purposes, such as “build to rent” or “shared accommodation” schemes.

In addition, the Guidelines set out standards where existing buildings are being redevelopment or refurbished for residential use that includes apartments, for example, provision of apartments above a commercial premises.

The Planning Authorities are required to consider the Guidelines and apply any specific planning policy requirements contained in the Guidelines when considering any planning applications.

Standards of Accommodation

The Guidelines set out apartment design parameters for the Planning Authorities to consider including:

  • Location considerations to identify suitable areas in cities and towns for apartment developments
  • Apartment mix within apartment developments
  • Internal space standards, floor to ceiling height, room dimensions and dual aspect ratio
  • Amenity Spaces
  • Car-parking

The Department acknowledges that while it is important to strive for certain standards in accommodation, economic considerations such as the cost of development and the cost of buying or renting the accommodation must also be considered in order to encourage investment in such developments.

New guidelines on Build to Rent

Of significant importance to the housing crisis, is the new guidance issued on “build to rent” (BTR) developments. BTR developments can contribute to the housing supply in the short-term at a faster pace than traditional housing development models. The BTR development will be subject to the condition that it is owned and operated by an institutional entity for at least 15 years with a commitment not to sell or rent units separately during this period. The BTR development will also be required to provide certain support facilities to residents such as laundry facilities, waste management etc.

Importantly the requirement under Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) (the 2000 Act) to reserve 10% of the development for social housing units will apply to BTR developments.

Shared Accommodation

The Guidelines also provide guidance on a new model of shared accommodation where individual rooms are rented within a professionally managed development with access to communal facilities. The Guidelines highlight that this type of development is only appropriate for urban areas. The onus will be on the developer of such a scheme to demonstrate to the planning authority that their proposal is based on accommodation need. Where there is not satisfied, the proposal must be refused by the planning authority.

The obligations under Part V of the 2000 Act will not generally be applicable to shared housing schemes.

Impact on Housing Crisis

According to the Housing Agency there is a need for at least 45,000 new homes in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford in the short term. In the long term, the NPF has identified a need for at least 550,000 new homes by 2040 with at least half of these in the major cities. These guidelines are a positive step towards the delivery of increased apartment units in Ireland to support housing needs. Ireland has significantly lower numbers of households living in apartments than other European Cities. The setting of proper standards will encourage more apartment living and assist the Government in their plans to encourage more development upwards in urban areas to prevent urban sprawl. As the Guidelines are the second set of policy changes published in the last 2 years, the Department have indicated that the Guidelines can be taken as settled policy for the upcoming years, which will provide some stability for developers.