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Re-imagining housing in Ireland: New Opportunities

Here at Lotus IG, we support and champion the delivery of new housing in all its guises, from new development schemes right through to the re-imagining of existing buildings that can be turned into viable housing. Past decades have shown us that opportunities lie beyond the obvious. Now, the State appears to be ready to embrace more imaginative solutions to tackling Ireland’s housing crisis.

According to The Irish Times this week, more than 50 pubs in Ireland have applied for a scheme that would allow them to be converted into homes without the need for planning permission. The scheme was launched last year by the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, as a way to address the country’s housing crisis by repurposing disused commercial properties. This allows for the conversion of unused pubs into housing units without disrupting the built fabric of rural towns and villages. The 53 pubs that have applied for the scheme account for one-fifth of all commercial premises that have applied for it. They are expected to ultimately provide 169 housing units. The former drinking establishments are spread across 24 local authority areas, with 12 in Co. Mayo alone (figures indicate that the county has seen a quarter of its public houses close since 2005). Tom Gilligan, director of services at Mayo County Council, said that many of these pubs are not going to come back into use and that derelict, vacant buildings serve no purpose. The conversions will not only provide much-needed housing but also help to revitalise towns and villages. The scheme also allows for “over the shop” living in once-vacant spaces.

As most here will know, the Irish landscape is dotted with shuttered pubs, and research shows that 21% of the country’s stock has closed between 2005 and 2021, with most counties seeing a decline of over 10%. Brian Foley of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said that changing demographics and consumer trends have contributed to the closures. However, the visual role of pubs in Irish streetscapes is not necessarily under threat, as the scheme stipulates that building exteriors cannot be altered. Other conditions of the scheme include that the pub must have been closed for business for at least two years to prevent inadvertently encouraging closures. The initiative is limited to nine home units per premises. The conversions are an extension of the pre-existing Planning and Development Regulations and will remain in place until 2025. They also cover “above shop” renovations in commercial premises that have been open to applications since 2018.

Overall figures show an intention for the provision of 2,066 homes under the scheme. Minister O’Brien said that the conversions are helping to provide housing and revitalise town centres. He added, “The reality is that a lot of these pubs are not going to come back into use…It’s all about bringing people back into our towns and villages.” 

From our perspective, this is a welcome initiative that provides much-needed housing while preserving the visual character of Irish towns and villages. It is a practical solution to the problem of shuttered pubs and an excellent way to revitalise town centres. Reach out to any of the Lotus IG team if you wish to explore similar housing opportunities.

Ian Lawlor
086 3625482

Managing Director 
Lotus Investment Group