Action 5.9 of the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness and Action 6 of the Action Plan for Rural Development committed to reviewing planning legislation to allow the change of use of vacant commercial units in urban areas, including vacant or under-utilised areas over ground-floor premises, into residential units without having to go through the planning process. To give effect to this action, my Department brought forward the necessary revisions to the planning regulations through the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2018 which were signed and brought into operation on 8 February 2018. A copy of the Regulations is available on the Irish Statute Book website at the following link:
The planning exemptions under these Regulations operate for a limited period until 31 December 2021 and apply to commercial buildings which have been lying vacant for at least 2 years. The exemptions relate primarily to works to the interior of such buildings and a number of restrictions apply to these works, including that a maximum of 9 residential units can be provided in any one building, and that certain minimum standards relating to floor areas, storage space and the provision of natural light are met for each unit. In addition, development works undertaken need to comply with the requirements of the Building Control Regulations, such as fire safety, structural stability and ventilation etc. Additional work is also underway on further streamlining, and providing guidance on, the building control regulatory requirements in relation to the conversion of vacant premises (including vacant over the shops spaces) into residential use.
In the event that a converted property was to be made available for social housing, it may be eligible for funding under the Repair and Lease Scheme. A property owner can obtain further information in this regard from their local authority.