This Housing Crisis Isn’t Normal And We Have Solutions


From top: The National Housing Demonstration in Dublin city centre last December; Dr Rory Hearne.

In an interview on RTE’ Radio 1’s ‘Drivetime’ yesterday, I outlined that it is really important that any discussion of housing taking place at the moment starts by stating that that there is nothing normal about our homelessness crisis.

There is nothing acceptable about it and nothing normal about an increase in child homelessness from 500 children in 2014 to almost 4000 in 2018 – a 600% increase in just four years.

There is nothing normal or acceptable about a generation of people being locked out of affordable housing – contrary to what some people have been saying.

The discussion of developers’ incentives to build such as reducing VAT has to be put in context of a wider discussion about our housing crisis – because this isn’t something that can just be tinkered around with.

The government has already made a number of incentives in relation to house building. One of the very significant incentives was done in 2015 when they reduced the obligation in private housing developments to provide Part V social housing from 20% down to 10% – similarly there were changes were made to apartment standards.

The problem is if you look at it from a policy perspective and how housing systems operate you can give all the incentives in the world but that doesn’t mean that the private sector will build or not. There are a number of issues determining that such as access to finance, access to land and profitability.

Dublin City Council are doing a number of initiatives such as the cost rental housing proposal that offer a solution. Because the problem is we got into the crash in 2007 and 2008 because developers were over incentivised – there was too much credit flowing in and pushed up prices.

We had huge supply but we still had no affordability.

At the core of that problem is that we don’t do what countries that provide successful affordable housing systems like Denmark and Austria do – where the state and not-for-profit housing providers (housing associations and cooperatives) provide a very significant proportion of the supply of housing.

Yet in the first three quarters of last year only 800 local authority social housing units were built by local authorities across the country and only 350 were built in the wider Dublin area.

We need a new form of supply of affordable housing, done by the state and guaranteed. That also guarantees a supply of work for builders and construction workers as well.

The state needs to see that the private approach of incentivisation of the private market hasn’t worked and it won’t work to provide affordable housing .

The cost rental and affordable rental model is a way that the state should be doing it – the way that can guarantee provision and it should be providing 20,000 affordable units per year.

Even Tom Parlon, head of the Construction Industry Federation agrees as he outlined in the discussion on ‘Drivetime’:

Philip Boucher Hayes [host]: “You don’t seem to be in any disagreement with Rory – that getting the state to step in to do the building and you guys tender to do the work?”

Tom Parlon: “Yes, it is a solution.”

There may be a chink of light emerging in this crisis. But we have a long way to go!

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

Listen back to interview here


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12 thoughts on “This Housing Crisis Isn’t Normal And We Have Solutions

  1. Nialler

    Why don’t we bring in the experts from Denmark and Austria then, experience in this model is essential and can advise government, if Irish builders will not tender for the contract due to lack of profit on the build then put it out to European builders.

    1. Rob_G

      Try to hire any electrician, or a plumber, for any job starting in the next 6 months.
      => now, try to find several thousand of each to build all the homes that we need

      Experts from Denmark and Austria can make recommendations until they are blue in the face: regardless of whatever action the government does or does not take, it will be difficult to find the required labour for any large-scale building project. There are no easy solutions to the current housing crisis, unfortunately.

      1. Junkface

        There is a lot of new technology that the Irish Gov’t are refusing to consider, because it might rock the boat in the building industry and that means that they can’t siphon off money to their friends.

        Large scale 3D Printing
        Large scale 3D Printing
        Large scale 3D Printing

        1. Rob_G

          I agree that this technology is an interesting development, but:

          (i) are there many large-scale 3D-printed housing projects currently, or is the technology still in it’s infancy?

          (ii) these units would still need to plumbed, wired, tiled, flooring put in, etc…

          It should certainly be looked into, but Rory’s claim that ‘we have the solutions’ is a bit simplistic.

          1. Rob_G

            From the article:

            “…plans to build five 3D-printed houses”

            “[The project] was initially announced […] in 2016”.

            So, in three years, this technology has almost delivered five houses.

            While I agree that every avenue should be explored, I don’t agree that 3D-printing will be able to deliver the number of housing units that we require on any reasonable timescale.

        2. Cian

          Large scale 3D Printing you say?
          How much does it cost?
          In the link you provided it talked about bespoke concrete not needing steel. Is it cheap? Or is this aimed at fancy curved builds.

          Either way, unless the current bottleneck is in block-layers (or the production of blocks) – this doesn’t solve the labour issue.

          Getting people from abroad doesn’t really help either – because we ‘d need to house them before there are houses built.

          1. Junkface

            Not needing Steel framing throughout the concrete structures would save money and definitely save man power. Actually the whole process would cost a fraction of normal building. Yes it has taken them 3 years since 2016 to get to this point with very little manpower and investment put into it, but the technology is improving every year.

            Can you imagine is a country took this on seriously? Ireland could be the leader in this approach to building. All it takes is to make a start. It would pay for itself multiple times over the next decade. There would be way less energy, feeding supply lines, carbon footprint etc. It has already changed the Airline industry for good with lighter and stronger Airplanes.

          2. Cian

            Most houses built today aren’t poured concrete – so don’t need steel framing. They are traditional block-built.
            You do get steel framing in office blocks – for the cores, and possibly the larger apartments.

            I’m not sure if this new technology is suitable for larger (>2 story) buildings (yet).

            New technology is great – in it’s place. But I don’t see an new, untried, untested, uncosted technology as being a sensible approach as the “solution” to Ireland’s housing problem.

  2. bisted

    …interesting that Tom Parlon should pop up…I believe that the idealogical shift away from public house provision came from the PDs. It was they who championed the notion of PPP (Private Public Partnerships) – these were particularly disasterous in the area of public housing and the knock-on through people competing in the private rental sector and the inability of young people to afford to buy homes will take generations to remedy…

  3. curmudgeon

    No poo Tom Parlon would like that he is the Director of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). Of course they’d love to get billions from the tax payer. CIF are not a force for good for the tax payer or construction industry workers, they are a rich developer’s interest group .

  4. A Person

    Again, an extraordinary simplistic view of the housing market. Dr Rory, can you please explain why you never mention Approved Housing Bodies, the Mortgage to Rent Scheme, or the fact that large scale soical housing efforts in the past have proved to be disastrous. Also Part V was up to 20% soical and affordable housing (split 10/10), but the policy was changed not to necessarily encourage house ownership as the appropriate model, as is accepted worldwide?

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