Locals-only rules from the 2005 Rural Housing Guidelines remain in place until further notice, the Department of Housing told Selfbuild.
Locals-only rules prevent people without proven ties to the community to get planning permission on some greenfield sites, a policy that has led the EU to take legal proceedings against Ireland ten years ago.
“The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Ireland in 2007 regarding discriminatory restrictions on the granting of dwelling authorisations in Ireland,” the European Commission told Selfbuild. “The Commission has since been in contact with the Irish authorities.”
That same infringement case is still open and in 2016, the Irish authorities informed the Commission of their intention to review the rules. Once new rules are notified to the Commission, the Commission services will assess them and decide on the next steps.
“Discussions are still ongoing with the local authority sector on the revision of the Rural Housing Guidelines, specifically the local needs criteria therein,” a Department of Housing spokesperson told Selfbuild.
“It is hoped that the revisions will be finalised in the coming months, by year end at the latest, after which revised guidelines will be issued to planning authorities.”
Taking into account the need for consultation with the European authorities, Selfbuild understands this means revised guidelines for the local authorities are unlikely to come to light until 2018.
In May 2017 the Oirechtas Library & Research Service published the EU’s position on the Flemish case, which is cited as the basis for removing locals-only rules in Ireland.
“The [Law Society] authors state that discriminatory measures framed around family connections to an area are likely to be found to breach EU law, as the purposes they are intended to achieve (such as preserving rural characteristics etc.) can usually be attained without such discrimination,” summarised the Oireachtas note.
However Galway Councillor Jim Cuddy told Selfbuild he was hopeful a circular would be issued to local authorities in the second half of this year, instructing them to remove the locals-only requirement from their development plans.
Publication of Help to Buy review delayed
The review into the Help to Buy scheme, meanwhile, has also been delayed. The report is expected to inform the Cabinet on whether or not to scrap the scheme in this year’s budget.
A spokesperson for the Department of Finance told Selfbuild the Minister of Finance had yet to see the report. The publication date, he said, is “a matter for the Minister [of Finance]”.
The Minister for Housing had indicated in June that the report would be published today (31st August).
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