Tag Archives: Housing

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.”


“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.”





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?


Listen back in full here


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.


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



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.


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)


There you go now.

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 16.17.28

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)

13/12/2016. Government- New Rental Strategy - Rebuilding Ireland. Pictured Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney TD speaking to the media on the Government strategy entitled the new rental strategy under rebuilding Ireland in Government Buildings this afternoon. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

From top: Housing Minister Simon Coveney at the Rebuilding Ireland launch last December; Dr Rory Hearne

The latest social housing and homeless figures are frightening and show a crisis that will worsen significantly in coming years

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

The latest figures included in the government’s Social Housing Status Report and the January 2017 Homeless Figures are frightening, in terms of the worsening housing crisis and the inadequacy of the government’s response to address it.

Dublin City Council will be building just 560 new social housing units in the coming two to three years based on current plans.

At this rate it will take at least 30 years to house those on the Dublin City housing waiting lists. While only 604 social housing units started on-site in 2016 in Dublin City, just five in South Dublin and there were no local authority housing units started on site in Cork City last year.

While the homeless crisis continues to worsen. There were 7,167 homeless people in January including 4,760 adults and 2,407 children which is the highest number of homelessness on record. Dublin is worst with 3,247 adults and 2,046 children homeless.

According to Focus Ireland 87 families with 151 children became homeless in Dublin in January, which their Director Mike Allen, explained “means that shockingly a child became homeless every five hours in Dublin during the month of January.”

Minister Coveney’s Social Housing Status Report is deeply worrying from a number of perspectives.

Firstly the plan claims that, “a rich construction pipeline is in place, which will see over 8,430 new social houses being built over the coming years”.

Yet 652 houses of this new ‘pipeline’ are already completed, as they were built last year, and should not be included.

But most worrying is the fact that only a fifth (1,829) of this new pipeline are ‘on site’ already. That means that the majority of the new social houses in the plan will not be built until 2019 or 2020 on current building schedules.

What this shows is that there is no way the government will meet its targets for new social housing construction (it claimed it would construct 26,000 by 2021), and so we are likely to see around 1000 new builds in 2017, perhaps reaching 2,000 in 2018 and 2019.

That is no where near sufficient to address the level of housing need. We need at least 10,000 new build social housing units delivered per year.

Unfortunately Rebuilding Ireland and the Department of Housing do not provide aggregate numbers of housing units being delivered by the different organisations and areas.

In order to get a picture of what is happening in reality on the ground in terms of delivery in the key areas of social housing need I have gone through the social housing projects and timelines outlined in the Status Update delivery for the four Dublin Local Authorities and Cork City and created this table below.


From this we can see that most worryingly only 604 social housing units have started on-site in 2016 in Dublin City, just five in South Dublin and there were no local authority housing units started on site in Cork City last year.

In total just a third of the new social housing units outlined for these key areas started on site in 2016.

These figures also show that a significant proportion (37% across these areas, and 48% in Dublin City) of new social housing units are not being built by local authorities but by ‘Approved Housing Bodies’- housing associations, like Respond, Tuath, Cluid and so on.

At a national level just 75 local authority housing units were built in 2015 and there were only 161 new local authority houses built by September 2016. This shows the national 652 ‘new build’ figure itself is misleading as it is likely to be mostly AHBs.

The issue here is that it is local authorities are state authority responsible for meeting housing need and that have the capacity to upscale and deliver large numbers of social housing units.

Housing Associations can play an important role in delivery but their capacity is much more limited to provide new units on a large scale. They are not-for-profit (so far) but are private, not state, organisations.

What this table also shows is that in Dublin City, a third of the new build local authority housing units are ‘regeneration’ units. These should not be counted as additional new units as they are replacing existing social housing units in areas such as Dolphin House and O Devaney Gardens where residents are planning to return once building is complete.

Furthermore, we can see from this that while there is a social housing waiting list of almost 20,000 in the capital, Dublin City Council will be building just 560 new social housing units in the coming two to three years based on current plans. Including Voluntary Housing Bodies, this number increases to 1,255.

At that rate it will take at least 30 years to house those on the housing waiting list (that doesn’t include people who become newly homeless, in need of housing etc).

A major reappraisal of financing, delivery mechanisms and time-frame targets are required for social housing delivery if we are to address this crisis.

For example, local authorities should be allocated an additional €500 million to directly build, a new state housing authority should be set up to provide 10,000 mixed income affordable rental housing units per annum, and NAMA should be directed to provide the 20,000 housing units it is planning to build in the coming years for mixed income affordable rental housing.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academic, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne


Earlier: A Record 7,167 People


This morning.

The Central Bank of Ireland has released the residential mortgage arrears and repossession statistics for the third quarter of 2016.

The Central Bank writes:

The number of mortgage accounts for principal dwelling houses (PDH) in arrears fell further in the third quarter of 2016; this marks the thirteenth consecutive quarter of decline. A total of 79,562 (11 per cent) of accounts were in arrears at end-Q3, a decline of 3.1 per cent relative to Q2 2016.

The number of accounts in arrears over 90 days at end-September was 56,350 (8 per cent of total), reflecting a quarter-on-quarter decline of 2.1 per cent. This represents the twelfth consecutive decline in the number of PDH accounts in arrears over 90 days.

Buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage accounts in arrears over 90 days decreased by 2.4 per cent during the third quarter of 2016. At end-September there were 14,518 BTL accounts in arrears over 720 days, with an outstanding balance of €4.3 billion, equivalent to 18 per cent of the total outstanding balance on all BTL mortgage accounts.  There was an increase of 5.4 per cent in the number of BTL accounts where a rent receiver was appointed; this follows on from an increase of 1 per cent in the previous quarter.

Residential Mortgage Arrears and Repossession Statistics: Q3 2016  (Central Bank of Ireland)


In Saturday’s New York Times, Liz Alderman reported:

The Tobun family never missed a rental payment on their modest brick rowhouse in eight years. But in February, the couple, who have two young children, received a letter warning that they would be evicted when their lease expired. Forty of their neighbors got the same notice.

When they went to investigate, the tenants, in the working-class suburb of Tyrrelstown, discovered a trail that led all the way to Wall Street.

After Europe was ravaged by a financial and economic crisis, the giant investment bank Goldman Sachs snapped up huge swaths of distressed debt in Ireland, including the loans of Tyrrelstown’s developer in 2014. The developer [brothers Rick and Michael Larkin, of Twinlite] now wants out of the rental game and is selling the properties. As the owner of the loans, Goldman will reap a large portion of the proceeds.

Goldman has nothing to do with the possible evictions here. But because American banks have played such a large role in Europe’s housing recovery — and have made huge profits in the process — they have become the main target of a growing backlash among homeowners and renters.

“Somehow, these funds have gotten involved in our community,” Funke Tobun said. “They’re profiting, but it’s the people who are being made to suffer.”

Wall Street has become the biggest new landlord in Europe, as American financial firms have swept into cities, suburbs and towns to take to advantage of the fallout from the worst economic downturn since World War II. In the last four years, Goldman Sachs, Cerberus Capital Management, Lone Star Funds, Blackstone Group and others from America have bought more than 223 billion euros’ worth of troubled real estate loans around Europe, nearly 80 percent of the total sold.

The firms have made the usual calculation: buy distressed investments on the cheap during tough times, betting that the outlook will eventually turn and riches will follow. And the firms are paying little or no tax, by employing complex strategies that often involve subsidiaries with no operations or staff.

The huge profits and dubious tax strategies have made Wall Street a major object of frustration and anger, as people grapple with evictions and higher mortgage payments. In some cases, the Wall Street firms are passive players, the money men behind the landlords, developers or banks that are exerting force. In other cases, they are direct participants taking action.

…Ireland is now enjoying a robust recovery. But growth has been fueled partly by financial maneuvering, and the real underlying gains are far from even. More than 5,000 people have been left homeless by the crisis, with the government subsidizing many in shelters.

Mrs. Tobun does not have many options. She does not want to move farther out, since it would mean changing schools for her son who has special needs. A nearby rental is too expensive. Rents in Ireland have risen around 20 per cent since the crisis as home construction dried up after the bust.

…Like other Wall Street players, Cerberus came into the country quietly, creating a local subsidiary under a different name and setting up a complex and extensive web of interconnected businesses.

There are the 13 subsidiaries in Dublin, all with Promontoria in their names. They have no employees and no offices. They are all registered to the same address on Grant’s Row, a letterbox near Parliament. Those subsidiaries, in turn, are subsidiaries of holding companies in the Netherlands, more than 110 of which had the Promontoria name.

The structure has helped Cerberus profit in Ireland…

Wall Street Is Europe’s Landlord. And Tenants Are Fighting Back (New York Times)