More ornate houses may have Spanish style features such as an arched portico and terra cotta tiles. Some dwellings make classical allusions by placing pillars before the front door, supporting a pediment over an open porch. Others make use of Victorian features, such as bay windows cast iron lamp stands and red brick walls.
A 2002 publication by the ESRI reported that one third of Ireland's housing stock consists of one-off houses.
"Surely, if the culture of rural areas is to be preserved, then people from the countryside should not be routinely denied the opportunity to build a family home in their place of origin."
Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, has supported the view that one-off housing is a continuation of the traditional land use patterns in Ireland for millennia.
"We have a dispersed pattern of settlement going back thousands of years."
In contrast, An Tasice has argued that early settlements were nucleated and communal, often surrounded by ringforts for protection. It also argues that the environmental effects of one-off housing in the Stone Age were different from those observed in a car-dependent modern lifestyle.
Senator Mary Henry has pointed out that one-off houses are often built without any footpath connection to a local town, thus discouraging walking.
"...in the postal service...all householders pay the same price for the service although deliveries to country homes cost 4 times more"
- Dr Diarmuid O Grada, MIPI
The same report identified other subsidies to one-off housing as: school transport, rural road maintenance, increased costs when upgrading national roads, environmental costs from pollution due to septic tanks, and uneven application of social and affordable housing levies between urban and rural houses.
By contrast, supporters of one-off housing speculate that subsidies may be paid by rural taxpayers whenever large infrastructure projects are constructed by the state in Dublin from central exchequer funds.
"Certain people in urban areas are concerned that it is their tax euro that are subventing those of us based outside the pale. Who has paid for the infrastructure projects on the east coast, such as Luas, the port tunnel and other large-scale multi-million pound projects? "
- Senator Timmy Dooley
However, other commentators see one-off housing as actually undermining efforts to deliver national infrastructure, and unambiguously transferring costs to urban and suburban dwellers. Economist David McWilliams writes
“Let us be very clear: if we have one-off housing, we cannot have a functioning public transport system, public health service, public education system or postal system, never mind universal access to broadband or cable. …….
So who pays? The worker who has abided by the laws, who has bought a place in a town or a village and who is not lucky enough to inherit land.”
It has been argued by Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, that the marginal cost of supplying services to new one-off houses is low. Irish planning commentator James Nix says
"The Minister’s primary argument can be described as “the house at the end of the valley point”. It posits the following: where utility lines, pipelines and post are already delivered to a house at the end of a valley, then there can be no argument against ribbon development on the road leading to that house. It must be said that this argument has an initial attractiveness to it. To some extent, however, it overlooks the fact that the “house at the end of the valley” is usually served at shoestring capacity. In other words a whole new infrastructure would be required to accommodate the addition of three or four houses on the road going into the valley.Even where the services leading to the house at the end of the valley have untapped capacity, the previously expressed criticisms of urban-focused one-off housing are not displaced. The postal company still has to serve an additional three or four houses using a van or car. Household wastes are more expensive to collect or treat, and so on. Finally, the house at the end of the road into the valley is likely to be connected with a farming or forestry concern. It generates comparatively few traffic movements as compared with commuter-focused housing."
"The most important ingredient in rural development is population."The implication of this argument is that permitting one-off housing sustains rural populations by making it economically feasible for people to live in rural areas.
There are two counter-arguments: that one-off housing draws people out of rural towns and villages, stifling the growth of these regions , or else that population growth is not desirable in 'ultra-rural' areas that ought rather to become natural recreational areas with land-owners employed in land-maintenance, forestry and tourism-related services.
Supporters of one-off housing argue that its style represents the vernacular, modern, rural building tradition in Ireland.
By contrast, advocates of one-off housing may characterise those who would limit this type of development as Dublin 4 urbanites motivated by a desire to maintain the hegemony of cities and put country people in their place. Opponents of one-off housing are sometimes compared to colonial British landlords from the era before Irish independence.
"There could have been 40 houses on one road in my area - and, of course, the British landlords evicted them. Now unfortunate people are trying to get planning permission in those areas today but there is a new British landlord, An Taisce, objecting to them. "
- Johnny Brady TD, Chairman of the Joint Committe on Agriculture and Food
An Taisce, an Irish conservation organisation, maintains a policy against one-off housing development. Frank McDonald, a journalist with The Irish Times coined the term 'Bungalow Blitz' in a series of articles condemning one-off housing in the 1980s. This was a pun on the title of a popular book named 'Bungalow Bliss' by Jack Fitzsimons, that contained architectural plans for bungalows intended to be used by those building their own homes. The Irish Green Party opposes one-off housing development.
According to Minister Éamon Ó Cuív, 80% of applications for one-off housing are approved.