Tag Archives: Housing

Dublin City Council’s CEO Owen Keegan speaking to RTE’s Sean O’Rourke this morning

This morning.

On RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Dublin City Council’s CEO Owen Keegan was interviewed about  a range of matters.

These included the Luas Cross City works, the College Green plaza the lack of cycling facilities in the capital, housing and comments of Housing Agency’s boss Conor Skehan who recently claimed some people were ‘gaming the system’, by, he alleged, declaring they were homeless in order to jump the housing waiting list queue.

He was also asked his opinion about the €500,000 that Dublin City Council have voted to spend on lowering a recently built flood defence wall in Clontarf.

From the interview…

Owen Keegan: “What we’re saying is do not come into the city centre unless your destination is in the city, core city centre. There was far too much traffic going through the city centre and we’ve basically made it, we’re not accommodating that traffic but you can still access every car park, you can access every hotel and business is doing well in the city centre. This myth that business is dependent on car access, that’s simply not the case.

“Business is recovering very well in the city centre. We’ve held the retail core, despite all the challenges and it’s a difficult time for retail generally with the move to offline [sic] sales. It’s about the quality of the  retail experience and about the whole public…it’s not just about how you access it.”

Sean O’Rourke: “This is an another angle being taken by, this is another one of our listeners, Marie, ‘will you please ask Owen Keegan what’s the plan for cyclists trying to make their way safely through the city; you take your life in your hands and probably drive Luas drivers mad as well cycling down Dawson Street’?”

Keegan: “Well one of the immediate things we’re going to do is improve cyclist facilities around the College Green area because we recognise that it is very challenging at the moment. There is a need for significant further investment in cycling facilities in the core city centre.

O’Rourke: “Now, describe the plaza that’s planned. I mean what is it going to do? How big is it going to be? What’s going to go on there?”

Keegan: “It’s basically an open space but, you know, finished in very high quality materials, you know, for pedestrians. There will be a dedicated cycle track on one side of it, a two-way cycle track. I mean I’m not going to describe the image here..”

O’Rourke:It’s a public facility…but again people are thinking, ‘well, you know, that was supposed to be the great appeal of the boardwalk and the first job that has to be done there, along the Liffey, is you’ve to go out and clean up the needles that are there, left by people unfortunately who have the wrong relationship with drugs.”

Keegan:I think there are issues about the boardwalk but I don’t believe that this public plaza will be, I think there’ll be significant uses of, you know, I mean, one of, the problem with the boardwalk, at times of the day, it isn’t that used, it has been frequented by, you know, certain category which is unfortunate. I don’t think that issue will arise here.”

O’Rourke: “You think it’s going to be an area that’s going to enhance the city as opposed to one that’s going to create further social problems…”

Keegan: “Absolutely..absolutely.”

Later

O’Rourke: “What about housing? Obviously you have a responsibility there and it’s in Dublin, perhaps more than anywhere else, that the crisis is most keenly felt. What have you been able to do by way of, I mean how many new social houses or apartments did the city council build? I don’t mean ones that you supplied to new, or sorry to people who didn’t previously have one, what is the story there at the moment in Dublin City Council?”

Keegan: “Well, look, the housing situation is very difficult and the city council, we’re not responsible for the performance of the housing market. The recovery in the general housing supply has been slow, much slower than, given the buoyancy of the economy – that’s not our direct responsibility, but it is a major factor, so, I suppose the housing crisis is partly because we got out of social housing building and that would have been, and in actual fact there was no money to spend on social housing, it’s something that I think was most unfortunate. We’re back in social housing now, it’s taking time to ramp that up.

“But you know we’re dealing with the consequences of the failure of the private housing market and we have some influence on that market, in terms of planing policy but there are other factors there. But we have been very proactive in terms of sourcing our social housing. I mean last year we would have sourced about 4,100 units – not many of those were new builds. But there was an awful lot of housing that had been, our own stock, that had been out of commission, that we recommissioned.

“We made about 2,400 HAP housing assistance payment units available, the new builds would have been, we built around 100, sorry 250, the approved housing bodies brought about 350 units of supply, we got about 56 on Part V. Overall, we did about 4,000 allocations.”

O’Rourke: “But that would seem to be just a fraction of what’s needed in a city of a million people? How many people are on your housing list, waiting list?”

Keegan: “There are about 19,000. But 4,000 does represent significant, relative to where we would have been…”

O’Rourke: “What would you expect to do this year?”

Keegan: “Well I’d expect to do a lot more than that.”

O’Rourke:Would you expect to double it?”

Keegan:I’m not sure we’d quite double it, no, no. We have an awful lot of houses at different stages of construction, we’ve under construction, at planning, design, so, the pipeline is building up. It takes time to get housing. And we were out of the social housing business. At the same time, a lot of our effort has gone into, we brought another 200 hostel beds on, we’re working on about 500 family hub units, all of these units are delivered by the city council so, you know, we have been very proactive, compared to where we were two years ago and we would begin to see the benefits of that over the next two to three years.”

O’Rourke:Is money an issue for you or have you got as much as you think you can spend?”

Keegan: “I think in fairness we’re getting as much as we think we can spend, you know? I don’t think that is an issue.”

O’Rourke: “And what about space in which to build?”

Keegan: “Well at the moment, we have a limited number of sites. I think every site that we own is at some stage in the process, you know, in two or three years, we’ll run out of sites and we’ll have to acquire land or, you know, but at the moment, we have enough sites, they’re all, every site we have I think is being pursued and is at some stage along the process.”

O’Rourke: “Yeah, I mean, talking about the list, the 19,000 people on it, do you have a view on what Conor Skehan had to say, the chair of the national Housing Agency, that some people were making themselves homeless in order to get quicker access to accommodation?

Keegan:There is no doubt that a number of people who are presenting, or families who are presenting as homeless, are leaving the family home. Now whether you can accuse those people of ‘gaming’, you know, that’s a very emotive language. A lot of those people are in very difficult situations in the family home. So I think it would be unfair to categorise everybody who leaves a family home.

There is probably, you know, a sense to which, given the political priority  on housing families who are actually homeless, the priority being put on that, you know, people who are queuing in an ordinary fashion, in very difficult conditions in the family home, some of them may say ‘well look, I’m not getting anywhere’, you know, and may have made themselves homeless.

“But I think someone has to have an understanding of the factors, it’s not as simple as, I think the word ‘gaming the system’ was unfortunate. People can be in very, very difficult circumstances at a family home and it may not be tenable for them to continue to reside there and they present…”

O’Rourke:And in desperation maybe, they think there’s a quicker route to a permanent home…”

Keegan: “Yeah and given how important housing is, it’s not unreasonable that people would maximise, now I don’t advocate, and we certainly think people are better off being in the family home where they have family supports and in many, most cases, it is by far a better option going into a hotel, but you know, we have to accept that for some people it is not a sustainable option.”

Later

O’Rourke: “One other question, it’s on the mind of some of our listeners. A lot of time, I think was it two years and a lot of expense went to raising the sea wall, that protective barrier in the Clontarf area. And now it’s going to be lowered again so that motorists can have their view of the sea restored? Does that make sense?”

Keegan: “It doesn’t make sense to me. And I would have advised the members strongly against it. But, ultimately, this was a political decision. In fairness to the elected members, I think we started that, the construction of that project in the run up to the general election. And having sailed through the planning approval process and nobody  objected to it, none of the councillors objected to it, it was unanimously endorsed, the part VIII at the council. When we went to build it there were a number of concerns raised locally and they just gathered momentum in the run-up to the general election and, certainly one councillor was particularly active in campaigning against it and kind of, we were, the contractor was on site. It just, we kind of just lost control of the thing, so it was unfortunate. I mean, don’t start sensitive projects in the run-up to a general election would be the lesson I’d learn from that.”

Listen back in full here

Pic: Today With Sean O’Rourke

Otis Blue writes:

The Canadian Government, headed by Leo’s BFF has just launched its new – and first National Housing Strategy. It will spend $40bn CAN as it seems to remove 530,000 Canadian families from housing need and reduce chronic homelessness by half over the next decade.

In fairness.

A Place To Call Home

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Sinn Fein TD Eoin O’Broin, a Twitter clip from Mr Varadkar posted on Monday which was referred to during Leaders’ Questions today

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Broin addressed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about the affordability, or non-affordability, of housing in Ireland.

He told how there are many people who earn too much for social housing but cannot afford to rent or buy a decent home.

Among his examples, Mr O’Broin mentioned couples who earn a combined €50,000 or a single working person who earns €35,000 a year.

He said average rents cost between €14,000 and €23,000 per year, while average house prices across Ireland cost around €250,000 and, in Dublin, in the region of €400,000.

Specifically, he asked:

Can you tell us what the Government’s definition of affordable housing is? And can you tell us the exact number of genuinely affordable housing units that will be delivered by your government next year?

Mr Varadkar:

I can’t give you a numerical definition of affordable housing. Obviously that depends on, on the individual but I certainly would think that somebody who earns the average income in the State should be able to, to be able to get a mortgage and should be able to purchase a home with that.

“And, obviously, without giving you a numerical definition, I can’t answer the second part of your question.”

Later

“I’m encouraged by the fact that planning permissions are up, that construction is up. I was in my constituency on Monday with Minister Murphy visiting the Hansfield area where over 1,000 houses are under construction – 150 of which are public housing, social housing and about 800-900 are family housing and affordable housing.

“And in my constituency, in that part of my constituency, there are houses that are available for €320,000 and apartments that are available for €220,000. People who are able to secure a 35-year mortgage paying €880 a month which is considerably less than rent for people in lots of parts of the city. So I think we are making real progress in that regard.”

As part of his response, Mr O’Broin said:

I was hoping you’d mention Hamstead in Fingal. I watched the Twitter clip (above) of you yesterday of you in the hard hat and initially, of course,  I thought it was a Callan’s Kicks satire because there you were stood beside houses and the sale price of those houses that you were stood in front of, Taoiseach, was €315,000 to €395,000.

“So you’d need a combined household income of between €81,000 and €101,000. You’d need a deposit of €31,000 to €39,000.

“Now you ask me where do I get my definition of affordable housing. Well, actually, it’s from legislation, from existing affordable housing schemes introduced in this State.

“It’s above the threshold for social housing and it’s approximately a household average of €75,000.

“So it is absolutely remarkable that we have a Taoiseach that doesn’t even know what the legislative definition of affordable housing is, let alone have one for his own Government, and cannot tell us how many affordable units will be delivered from the €1.1billion of subsidies he’s giving to private developers.”

Mr Varadkar and Mr O’Broin then had the following exchange:

Varadkar: “You are, of course, misinformed, because the houses that were behind me are not for sale. They’re social housing.”

O’Broin: “The houses on the left…for sale. They were right behind you.”

Varadkar: “I think this is getting to the point of triviality but for anyone who’s interested in the facts, there are about 1,000 homes under construction there. It includes social housing which is not for sale. It includes apartments which are specially adapted for people with disabilities. It includes private housing.”

Mr Varadkar went on to claim Sinn Fein, specifically on Dublin City Council, only want “segregation” and social housing-only areas as opposed to mixed areas with different types of housing.

Mr O’Broin said this wasn’t true.

Mr Varadkar went on to say:

“The reason why Sinn Fein wants that is because they want segregation, they want to divide people so they can brew up discontent.”

Hmmm

Meanwhile…

UPDATE:

UPDATE:

Boarded up homes on Connaught St, Phibsboro earlier this year

You may recall how the Census 2016 figures which showed 183,312 vacant houses in Ireland – excluding vacant holiday homes.

And how Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week that:

“…the numbers [of houses] that are really vacant are actually much smaller than any of the figures show.

And the Irish Times reporting last week:

“… the real number of unoccupied houses and apartments might only be a tiny fraction of that, if the results of an investigation carried out by Fingal County Council are replicated elsewhere.

Its study, which involved council officials visiting houses listed as vacant, found that only a very small number of houses in the north county Dublin authority area (perhaps only 50 or 60) were genuinely unoccupied, compared with the 3,000 figure stated for Fingal in the official census returns.”

Rob Kitchin, on his Ireland After Nama blog, has looked at this story, acknowledging he couldn’t locate the Fingal County Council report or press release.

Mr Kitchin is a Professor of Human Geography and Director of the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis at the National University of Maynooth

He writes:

“What is reported in the IT is:

‘The council initially conducted a desktop exercise on the 3,000 supposedly vacant properties. When commercial properties, as well as those in construction or in the planning process, were eliminated the figure fell to 361 properties.’  They then visited 74 of the 361 homes to check on occupancy, though it’s not stated how those 74 were sampled. 

Of those 74 visited, they discovered that only 13 were actually vacant. In other words, rather than having a vacancy rate of 5% (as reported in the 2016 census – 4,944 vacant units + 289 holiday homes), they have a rate of about 1% – far below what might be an expected base vacancy level of 6% (there are always some units vacant due to selling, gaps between renting, working temporarily elsewhere, people in healthcare, etc.). 

I have no doubt in the 18 months since the census in April 2016 properties that were vacant will have been occupied, however it seems unlikely that vacancy is so far below base vacancy, which is what the IT piece seems to be suggesting.

“In terms of method it is unlikely that the CSO shared the individual addresses of vacant properties as identified in the census with Fingal.

“But if they were working from census data then it does not include commercial properties, nor properties under-construction, or in the planning process, or derelict.

“So removing those properties from census counts would make no sense – they were never counted by the CSO. Indeed, in a rebuttal story in the Irish Times, the CSO stand over their data and method – which is to send enumerators to every property in the country, to visit upwards of ten times if they fail to get an answer, and to talk to neighbours to try and ascertain the use status.

“…In my view, there needs to be a branch-and-root review of property data in Ireland.

“This needs to start with asking the question: what data do we need to generate to best understand planning, housing, commercial property, infrastructure need, etc?

“…With good quality data that people trust we might avoid different agencies producing wildly estimates of some element of housing or commercial property, such as vacancy rates, and we would greatly aid our planning and economic development.

“However, if we carry on as we are, we’re going to continue to fly half-blind and only have a partial or flawed understanding of present conditions and we are going to replicate mistakes of the past.”

We still need better property data (Rob Kitchin, Ireland After Nama)

Thanks Mel Reynolds

Modular housing in Ballymun, Dublin being built in April

This morning.

Further to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council releasing a “buoyant” pre-Budget statement…

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Seamus Coffey, chairperson of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) and UCC economics lecturer, spoke to Audrey Carville.

Audrey Carville: “I suppose for many people the question is this: is it possible for the Government to stick to existing plans and still do more to tackle the housing crisis?

Seamus Cofffey: “Oh absolutely, I think a key point that we’d make is that choices have to be made. That if there are priorities that we wish to address, these are the ones where the available resources are targeted. And if we look at capital spending in which the provision of social housing would be one element over the next couple of years, capital spending, Exchequer capital spending  is set to  double from the level it was in 2016. It’ll be almost double that by 2021.

“So the Government has set out a plan that does see quite a rapid and large increase in capital spending and this plan is in line with the fiscal rules. In fact, if you take the plan to 2021, it’s probably showing over-compliance with the fiscal rules. Yet within that, they are finding the space to double capital spending.

“Yes, we have some severe and serious problems at the moment. They take a long time to build up and equally they can take a while to solve but there is the space to do that, if things are prioritised.”

Carville: “What will happen though if the Government says, ‘well no, actually, we’re facing an emergency of such a nature that more has to go into the provision of public housing straight away, that we have to change things slightly. ”

Coffey: “Well, again, it’ll be choices, if you want to provide more for social housing, you can transfer spending resources from elsewhere or you can  raise additional funds from tax revenue.

“One issue we’d be concerned with is the overall impact, the fiscal and the government sector has on the economy. We’ve an economy that’s growing very, very strongly at the moment and has been for a number of years. The unemployment rate has dropped down to 6%. If we feel we need to ramp up say, output in housing, both say in the private sector and in the public sector, one issue is: do we have the resource capacity to do that?”

“Where are the workers going to come from? Are the workers going to come from other sectors in the economy? Maybe driving up wage rates? We’re beginning to see, although moderate at present, wages beginning to rise. Are we going to import workers from abroad? And, of course, if we bring in the workers to build the houses, that’s only adding to the problem we’re trying to solve with greater housing supply in the first place.”

Carville: “There is also the question of where those workers might live at the moment, because of the severity of the crisis. There have been all sorts of calls for different measures. For instance, over the past couple of days, we’ve heard Fianna Fail saying that there should be tax cuts for developers to encourage them to develop houses more quickly. What do you think of that idea?

Coffey:When it comes to individual measures, the fiscal council sort of remains outside the debate. What we’re looking at is the overall impact of all the decisions taken by Government and that’s not just on the spending side. There does seem to be a kind of impetus on the sort of spending watchdog. You can also have issues on the revenue and tax side as well. It’s a combination of those decisions. When it comes to actual individual measures, that’s a matter for the political process to decide. We consider what the outcome is in terms of the overall Government account and the impact on the economy.”

Carville:So you don’t have an opinion one way or another, or at least one that you’re going to give us on the question of tax cuts for developers?

Coffey:Correct.”

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

Last night…

The Irish Independent reported:

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy angered members of Dublin City Council (DCC) after he decided against appearing before the council to discuss the housing crisis.

The council had sent an invitation to the minister, asking him to attend its first meeting after the summer break, which took place tonight [Monday night].

However, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Michael McDonacha, revealed Mr Murphy responded that he would appear only after the Rebuilding Ireland report had been completed.

Anger as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy fails to attend council meeting to discuss the housing crisis (Irish Independent)

Previously: ‘Will They Still Be Your Friend? Or Will They Find You Scum?’

Michael Kearney

Further to news that housing minister Eoghan Murphy wants changes to Fair Deal to “encourage and facilitate the use of vacant properties of those in nursing home care” in a new vacant homes strategy…

Michael Kearney writes:

Good afternoon. I am a 75 year old Pensioner and totally non-political. I don’t comment on Government or ministerial matters as that is normally well covered, however, I am incensed at a new quirky turn that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has taken .

I have been following his pronouncements about all of the controls he is going to inflict on landbank holders, housing stock holders and developers. Now he has decided to turn his attention to the really bad Boys and Girls of the Nursing Homes.

It seems to me that Minister Murphy has woken up to the fact that the developers, stock and land holders have him back in his box. What is it with this country? Nobody at the top and I mean NOBODY has the real desire to make any real changes. We have seen it week in and out.

We have the Gardai sorted out, we have the HSE sorted out, we have this one and that one sorted out. Then we are told that ” Ah, we cant actually do that “. I totally abhor President Trump but there are times when I wonder.

Gulp.

Fair Deal change: Nursing home residents will be encouraged to lease out their homes (Kevin Doyle, Irish Independent)

From top: Dr Rory Hearne; From his paper ‘A home or a Wealth Generator’?

A conference, entitled Solid Foundations? Economic Inequality and the Housing Crisis, will take place in the Croke Park Conference Centre in Dublin, organised by TASC, next Friday (June 16).

One of the speakers will be post-doctoral researcher at Maynooth University Dr Rory Hearne, who will present his research A Home of a Wealth Generator? Inequality, Financialisation and the Irish Housing Crisis.

Ahead of this.

Dr Hearne was interviewed on Today with Seán O’Rourke earlier today.

Rory Hearne: “My analysis is that the Government’s policy and strategy, up to this point, has been inadequate in terms of social housing or even new forms, and what I propose is, and support others, like the Nevin Institute, towards the idea of an affordable rental housing company. That the Government is not doing enough to directly supply itself and what it has done is it’s over-focussed on incentivising private sector.

And by doing this incentivisation, whether that’s reduction in apartment sizes or it’s the Help To Buy scheme to try and introduce demand, that it has in actual fact inflated rents and inflated house prices and contributed to the crisis.

Continue reading

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 14.07.22
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney

You may recall how yesterday new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed the national average house price rising by almost 11% in the year to February.

Some economists have blamed the Government’s Help To Buy scheme for fuelling the sharp rise in prices.

Further to this…

Last Sunday.

Architect Maoilíosa Reynolds wrote an article for the Sunday Business Post in which he raised serious concerns about the Department of Housing’s seemingly disingenuous methodology when it comes to calculating house building figures.

He explained that official house completion figures are based on connections to the ESB network. To this end, the department says 14,932 new homes were “delivered” in 2016.

But, he said:

“There are significant problems with this. When a dwelling has been vacant for two years or more, the ESB network requires the owner to apply for a new connection (MPRN). This is a safety measure designed to make sure vacant units are safe and wired correctly. Using this method, existing completed Nama vacant units, part-completed ‘ghost estate’ units and local authority refurbished voids, when re-connected to the grid, are all classified as new completions. In the five-year census period, almost 20,000 existing houses have been re-connected and therefore officially reclassified as new builds.”

Mr Reynolds also raised concerns about how commencement figures are calculated – and crucially inflated – for large housing estates.

He wrote:

“In larger, estate-type projects, the established practice is to lodge one commencement notice for an entire scheme which may not be completed for several years. A 400-unit estate which begins building today may only deliver 50 units in 2017 – but all 400 will be counted as commenced this year. As a result, estate commencement numbers are inflated.”

As for residential planning permissions, he wrote:

“Up to 40 per cent of residential permissions do not get built for various reasons – lack of finance, ‘value-add’ exercises or extensions to existing permissions.”

Bizarrely, Mr Reynolds explains that one metric can be trusted and that’s the Department of Housing’s own detailed database called the Building Control Management System (BCMS).

He explained:

“A presentation by Department of Housing representatives to Engineers Ireland last month disclosed BCMS completion figures – not published on the Department’s website – for 2016. According to the presentation, there were just 3,505 certificates of compliance issued for all building types (not just residential).

In some instances, a single certificate of compliance covers more than one unit, so it is thought that the true number of homes represented by completion certificates could be as much as 30 per cent higher. But the reality is we don’t know.

Assuming the 30 per cent figure is correct, this means that certificates of compliance may represent 4,556 units delivered, a figure that includes 243 local authority and 400 units for conversions of existing non-residential to residential (Department’s own estimate). Add in average figures for one-off housing commencements at 2,972, a maximum delivery number of 7,528 is reached, or just 50.4 per cent of the official figure of 14,932.

This is best-case scenario. The number is likely lower, as BCMS tracks all building types, but does not disaggregate residential from other activity.

This means that in 2016, new-build output was half the official figures and a minimum of 7,404 existing vacant, refurbished voids and ‘ghost estate’ units reconnected to the grid were double-counted as new completions.”

Why housebuilding figures aren’t reliable (The Sunday Business Post)

Further to this.

Keelin Shanley was speaking to the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on RTÉ’s News At One this afternoon when she raised the matter of Ireland’s official housing figures.

Keelin Shanley:If you want to solve a problem, the very first thing you have to do is quantify that problem and know exactly what you’re dealing with. There has been discrepancy over figures that are coming out. We see 4,400 new home transactions over the last 12 months, comparing to a figure of 15,000 coming from the department. Can you explain the difference here? Because a number of experts have tried.”

Simon Coveney: “No, look, we measure new house completions that same way now as we have done every year since the 1970s. It’s based on ESB connections so , in other words, when somebody comes into a house, they put in place an ESB connection to actually insure that that house has been lived in, that is what determines new completions. Last year, it was over 15,000. The year before just over 12,000. This year the anticipated figure will be about 19,000. And so…”

Shanley: “So, ESB connections, rather than new homes put in place. These can be homes being brought back in or…”

Coveney: “I can only, like, you know, I mean, if we, you know, if figures were showing a different result, you’d ask me a different question. All I can do is use the same methodology that we’ve always used. To measure new completions, so that we can see improving trends. And we are seeing a dramatic increase in house building activity in Ireland, mainly around the cities. It’s only starting in other…if you look at Co Galway, one of the biggest counties in the country, only one housing estate built in the last six years. If you look at a county like Tipperary, not a single housing estate built in the last five or six years. And we’re about to have 200 houses built outside Clonmel. So we are seeing increases. It is ramping up quickly but it will take time for that to turn into new homes, good quality communities and housing estates and significant [inaudible] needed in city centres.”

Talk over each other 

Coveney:Planning applications, for example in Dublin, for apartment complexes is up more than 200%. So the willingness is there. But look, we can’t…”

Shanley: “There is a lag..”

Coveney: “…ignore the fact that, but over the last six or seven years, we had a broken economy and at the heart of that was a broken construction sector we had a banking sector that didn’t function, many, many developers and builders went out of business. 200,000 people lost jobs on building sites. In the last 12 months there’s an extra 13,000 people working on building sites so we are rebuilding literally from a very, very low base. It is going to take some time to deliver a response on that, but it’s happening.”

Shanley:Minister, nobody disputes that, we’ve seen it. And that’s fair enough. I think everybody accepts that there is a lag. But even so, over the last 12 months, that figure of 4,400 new home transactions or 15,000 completions from the department, it’s still a very long way off from what’s actually needed and that’s with time. You know, they’re the most recent figures….”

Listen back in full here

Rollingnews

nerimickbyrne

From top: The Nevin Institute paper on the housing emergency; Dr Michael Byrne

Further to calls yesterday by The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) for the creation of a semi-State company to become the main supplier of rental housing

Dr Michael Byrne writes:

Sometimes as a tenant it can feel like the problems are coming from all angles. Rents have increased 60% since 2010 while wages have been more or less stagnant. Evictions – or ‘terminations of tenancy’ – are very common.

Landlords can boot tenants out if they decide to sell or if they would like the property for family use. But many landlords are also forced to sell by their bank, due to arrears, or have receivers firms appointed to their properties who invariably put them straight on the market.

In both cases tenants lose their home to facilitate the sale of the property.

Meanwhile when you do lose your rented home it is extremely difficult to find a new one. And finally, bad property management and low standards are the norm across the sector.

These are all issues which can and should be tackled. But in a path-breaking research paper published yesterday, the Nevin Institute have made a startling point; if there are so many problems in the system maybe it’s because the system itself is broken.

They argue that nothing short of a revolution in rental accommodation is required. T

Their proposal is radical, but simple. It works like this. The government should establish a new semi-state company (which the Nevin Institute have dubbed the Housing Company of Ireland).

This company would borrow from a variety of sources (everywhere from Credit Unions to pension funds) and use the money to build rental accommodation.

Crucially, rents for this accommodation would be based on a ‘cost rental’ model. This is the magic ingredient to all the best rental sectors in Europe; Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands have all used them for decades.

Cost rents are pretty much what they sound like. Rent is set at a level that covers the cost of providing the accommodation (usually calculated over a 30 year period). Essentially, you take the total costs (construction, design, land, property management) of a development divide by the number of houses and spread it out over 30 years.

This means that as a tenant you pay a rent which covers the cost of providing your home, but nobody makes a profit from you. Cost rents ensure that the Housing Company of Ireland would have plenty of revenue to pay back its loans.

To get this system set up would take a significant initial investment. But once it is up and running it will be virtually self-financing.

But the system has many more advantages. Firstly, by setting non-market rents it frees tenants from the blackmail we are currently subjected to.

Today we hear that if we want more supply of housing we need to accept sky rocketing rents (in reality rents go up but the supply never seems to quite materialise).

By taking control of the supply of rental accommodation out of the hands of landlords we would no longer face a trade-off between affordability and supply. Secondly, tenants would enjoy the efficiency and effectiveness of a large, professional landlord.

Many of us are familiar with landlords who treat fixing a washing machine like a major logistical operation. Imagine renting from a company which managed thousands of units and hired dedicated property managers and maintenance professionals.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this system can deliver something tenants can currently only dream of: full security of tenure. You pay your rent, you don’t get kicked out.

No moving every year or so; no rearranging your life every time your landlord feels like it; no constantly feeling that the place you live can never really be your home.

Luckily, we don’t have to speculate about whether such a system can work in practice. The evidence from European countries is overwhelming.

In Austria, for example, the cost rental system has delivered between 14,000 and 19,000 units every year since 1994, making up 1/3 of all housing output over the period. And this is high quality, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable housing.

This is a crucial part of the overall stability of the Austrian housing system and one of the reasons they saw neither out of control house prices during the boom nor a disastrous housing crisis afterwards.

percentchange

Check out this graph (above), which shows percentage changes in house prices in Ireland and Austria between 2000 and 2014. As you can see Irish house prices are all over the place while Austria’s are perfectly stable (for more on this have a look at this paper co-authored with Professor Michelle Norris).

The obstacles to the Nevin Institute’s model are political ignorance and political will.

Politicians, for the most part, are incapable of understanding what life is like for renters. They still live in a fantasy land where home ownership is the norm and all renters are students.

In terms of political will – and this is the big difficulty – our current government are opposed to any major intervention in the private housing market. They view the tiny minority of people who make money from property in this country as an important part of their political base.

To challenge both political ignorance and political will we need to build a tenants’ movement that can change the political climate.

The Nevin Institute’s proposal provides a powerful tool for that movement.

Dr. Michael Byrne is a lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice and participates in the Dublin Tenants Association. Follow Michael on Twitter: @mickbyrne101

Ireland’s Housing Emergency – Time For A Game Changer? (NERI)

Meanwhile…

There you go now.

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Policy analyst Dr Rory Hearne

People’s basic needs, in terms of human rights, if we look at social needs, in terms of housing, health care, childcare, jobs decent-quality jobs – are not being met.

If we just take the housing crisis for example. We have almost 7,000 people homeless in this country, record numbers. There was almost 500 children homeless in 2014, we now have over 2,000 – that’s a four-fold increase in that space of time.

We have almost 100,000 families and individuals on the social housing waiting list… the facts are that there is 8,000 social housing units, that includes local authority and housing associations, that are in some stage of planning. There’s only 1,800 – that’s a quarter of that number – actually on site that is likely to be built in the next two years.

There was about 500 local authority, plus housing association, 500 social housing units built last year. At that rate we will be 200 years before we meet the housing waiting list. [Minister for Housing Simon] Coveney Rebuilding Ireland plan and the Government’s housing plan is not actually going to deliver the social housing and the housing that’s needed…

There are between 800 to 1000 families homeless in Dublin and, at the same time there are 20,000 vacant homes, vacant houses, according to the CSO. So that’s 20 empty houses per each homeless family. And it’s just illogical that we have this situation where housing/property is treated primarily as an investment, as an asset, rather than a home and a need.

And, you know, I think this underlies part of why we’re in this crisis. Because we have vultures buying up property, we have Real Estate Investment Trusts coming in. And we’ve the Government just sitting there – yet the Government could be building, you know, 10,000 affordable rental homes every year, if it took on models like the European cost rental model – which provides, using public land for a mix of incomes – Austria does it, Denmark does it. These countries provide much more levels of affordable housing than us.

But it seems like our politicians and our Government are just obsessed with this free market approach – where the State cannot intervene – and, you know, maybe it’s not coincidental that a significant proportion of them are landlords themselves.

But there’s this real, I’d describe like it’s an unwillingness to change things radically. And what is really disappointing … in the last election, there was a very clear message of people wanted investment in public services – they wanted a more equal Ireland – that was the message back.

It was a rejection of the idea of the recovery and yet, rather than taking that energy that’s there and we saw it, the same in Apollo House recently, where we had thousands of volunteers being involved and saying ‘we want to address this crisis’. And that’s what’s really disappointing.

The people still believe in the idea of a fair Ireland, they want to get involved in helping it. Yet, what are our politicians and our Government doing? It’s like they’ve given up on the idea of an equal republic. All they are focused on is their party and them getting one better on each other.

The disconnect between politics and between people’s lives, I think, has got to the point where it is just disgusting.

The mainstream politics and main media discussion about politics is all about personalities and about competition for the spoils of power rather than actually ‘are we dealing with the issues that affect people’?

But if you talk to the people on the street – what do they want politics to be about? They want it to be about ‘are you dealing with the housing crisis, are you dealing with those awful, awful stories of children who are waiting months and years for health care? That’s what they want politics to be dealing with.

Dr Rory Hearne speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night.

Watch back in full here

Earlier: Considering The Source

Related: Fine Gael heads the landlord list as TDs cash in with property (Mark Tighe, Sunday Times)