The Department of Housing has called for stricter rules on the letting of purpose-built student accommodation to non-students.
A circular issued to chief executives of local authorities last week said that permission to change the purpose of student accommodation buildings should only be granted if “there is no longer a need for such use in the area in question”.
The onus to prove this must be on the applicant, the circular said.
In the circular, Chief Planning Advisor Paul Hogan said there was a “critical need for purpose-built student accommodation to be available to serve the needs of the higher education sector, now that COVID related restrictions are easing and there is a general return to in-person learning in our third-level institutions”.
Hogan continued: “In considering planning applications for the change of use of existing student accommodation for a temporary period, planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála must be satisfied that there are compelling non-COVID related grounds to grant permission for any such proposed change of use, while demand for student accommodation remains high.”
“The removal of student accommodation from availability for student use runs contrary to the National Student Accommodation Strategy.”
“Accordingly”, he added, “the onus must be on any applicant for change of use from existing purpose-built student accommodation to demonstrate that there is no longer a need for such use in the area in question. Otherwise, student accommodation should be retained, where appropriate”.
In a press statement, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said he and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris “have been liaising on the issue of student accommodation and the challenges students are facing”.
“We have introduced safeguards to protect students in rented accommodation”, he said. “The circular issued by my Department on Friday leaves local authorities in no doubt that purpose built student accommodation should be retained for that use where that is appropriate.”
Dublin City Council has recently given permission for as many as 1,055 student beds to be let short-term to non-students.
Last week, the Dublin Inquirer reported that providers of purpose-built student accommodation applied to rent their beds to non-students because they had anticipated a lack of demand this academic year due to the pandemic.
In a press statement today, Labour’s Housing Spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan said: “The circular issued by the Departments today is full of get-out clauses for the government’s developer friends.”
“If government were serious about abating the accommodation crisis”, Moynihan said, “they would enact Labour’s Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 which would stop developers using loop-holes in the planning legislation to convert purpose built student accommodation into apartments for tourists”.
“What’s been issued today will not stop developers.”
Global Student Accommodation has been granted permission for short-term letting within at least six complexes.
Heyday Student Accommodation at Carman’s Hall in the Liberties has also received permission to use 68 of its beds for short-term lets up to the end of May 2022.
Some 571 private student flats owned by Uninest have been converted into tourist accommodation for the academic year.