Attorney General approves proposals to reform the housing planning system – About Your Online Magazine


The lawyer Generally approved proposals to reform the planning system in an effort to restrict the purchase of houses by institutional investors.

The plans, which were developed by the Minister of Housing Darragh O’Brien, will be taken to the Cabinet on Tuesday. They include proposals to limit bulk purchases of housing units in less dense areas and reserve significant proportions of new developments for first-time buyers.

At least 30%, and up to 50%, of the units are likely to be reserved for purchase by first-time buyers, although the exact level is discussed in the Cabinet this week.

It is understood that the approval of the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, as the plans came on Sunday morning, paving the way for them to be brought to the Cabinet this week.

They also include a proposal that the share of housing reserved for affordable purchase in new developments be increased from 10 percent to up to 20 percent.

This is set aside for 10 percent of the houses set aside for social housing, currently prescribed by the Affordable Housing Act.

This means that, in theory, up to 80 percent of some future developments will be reserved for specific types of buyer. However, sources said there will be flexibility in the way the rules are applied.

The new laws will not apply to developments that are already planning permission.

It is likely that the legislation, which is currently undergoing Oireachtas, will be changed at the commission stage.

Homes reserved for first-time buyers would also be available to some other groups of people, such as those who have gone bankrupt and lost a home, or divorced people.

The new density rules are likely to be issued through a circular to local authorities and will restrict bulk sales in less densely populated areas, such as public transport belts.

The measures should be taken to the Council of Ministers next week along with the tax reforms proposed by the Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe. The government is examining reforms to the stamp tax system to discourage bulk purchases.

Municipal councils

However, signaled measures to reduce the ability of local authorities to enter into long-term lease agreements with institutional investors are unlikely to be brought to the Cabinet this week, the sources said.

The use of long-term leases has been instrumental in the ability of district councils to achieve social housing goals and, in turn, has provided an income stream for some funds that buy or build housing projects.

Dublin City Council executive vice president Brendan Kenny this clarity was needed about the role of long-term leases, with the local authority negotiating about 1,700 and recently receiving approval from the Housing Department for 150 leases in the city.

He said investment funds are important for residential developments and without them many schemes would not happen, which in turn “would decrease opportunities for DCC to make long-term leases.”

However, the opposition argues that these leases have an unsatisfactory value in the long run. Eoin Ó Broin, real estate spokesman for Sinn Féin, said they are bad for the tenant, the taxpayer and the market.

“The government should focus on building and buying real social housing, not paying much more than the probabilities of long-term leasing of properties that they don’t have at the end of the lease term.”

Paula Fonseca