To Helsinki Or Connaught


This morning.

Via Irish Times:

In the article “Rent Trap” (Weekend, October 23rd) “Amet” lamented that he was unable to save a sufficient sum to purchase a house in south Dublin, notwithstanding that he and his wife had a joint income of €175,000 a year.

He offered Finland as a country of similar size – presuming that population is the construct in question – as building 40,000 units a year. This effective housing policy has meant that here, a two-bedroom apartment bought 15 years ago in a town comparable to Castlebar was sold this year for the same price it was bought for – €43,000.

Thus, a single person on minimum wage can purchase such a dwelling as repayments on a €40,000 loan over 20 years will amount to €190 a month at present rates of interest charged by Finnish banks.

If one does not wish to live in the Finnish equivalent of Castlebar, then something similar in the capital region of Helsinki will set you back between €150,000 – 10 minutes from the centre by train – to €300,000, 10 minutes by tram.

Repayments on a 90 per cent loan then move to €630 and €1,260 respectively.

David Fitzgerald,

Kiuruvesi, Finland.

Irish Times Letters

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26 thoughts on “To Helsinki Or Connaught

  1. Cian

    Ireland’s population had gone from 3 million 1970 to 4 million in 2003 to 5 million now.
    That is a 66% increase in 50 years

    Finland’s population, for comparison, was 4.6m in 1970, 5.2m in 2003 and now 5.5m.
    A 20% increase in 50 years

    One of these will put more pressure on housing that the other.

    1. Zaccone

      Helsinki’s population has gone from 500,000 in 1970 to 1 million in 2003 to 1.3 million now.
      Thats an increase of of 150%+ in 50 years.

      Yet they’ve managed that population growth within their housing system.

      Try again.

      The reason we have a housing crisis in Ireland is deliberate government policy.

      1. Ronan

        Never attribute to malice, that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.

        It’s a lack of policy and bad policy, not deliberate government policy. Our leadership has been week for decades – end of story – trying to fix every problem with bandaids of small cash allocations such as:
        – National Treatment Purchase Fund instead of structurally increasing bed capacity
        – Not increasing winter ICU bed capacity, but instead pushing out elective surgeries
        – Rent allowance / HAP and other schemes to avoid capita outlays on social housing.

        Spare me the ‘deliberate policy’ stuff. We have weak government who can’t say “everybody else feck off while we fix health for 2 years” and provide real results, before saying “Housing, you’re next”. It’s all small cash allocations to the private sector because that offers the least amount of resistance from managers, unions and other stakeholders to change, or is more palatable than big state investments in infrastructure and then having to outsource upkeep anyway.

        1. Zaccone

          FG policy since entering government in 2011 has been openly to restore house prices to boom time levels to get their voters out of negative equity.

          Approx 75% of their voters are property owners, who benefit from ever increasing housing prices. And so the party acts in their interests and ensures government policy is that house prices, and rents, are always going upwards.

          Its why all of their “fixes” have been demand side – help to buy schemes etc tinkering around the edges aimed to help young middle class people, instead of supply side – massive housing construction problems that would actually reduce prices across the market.

          1. Ronan

            I hear this all the time.
            ‘openly their policy’
            ‘deliberate policy’
            of whomever is in charge.

            Out of morbid curiosity I just read the housing policy section of a 2018-published election 2020 manifesto for FG.
            It doesn’t mention anything about wanting property prices to increase, rather it has arguably repeated private-sector focused mistakes: despite statements about being planner led not developer led. Then it talks about plans to invest in existing cityscapes with infill enablement, plans for cost price rentals etc and a mix of social housing units to solve the crisis of home ownership.

            For me, it’s a weak enough policy statement, and is probably one that will fail to address supply issues in a meaningful way, even if they kept to it, but I don’t see any ‘open’/’deliberate’ drive prices up policy.

            And why would there be? All of your voting home owners have kids that will one day have to buy houses, or have struggling relatives, or maybe they’re just intelligent enough to know that high property prices are bad for our long term competitiveness and therefore economy.

            We bought a house in 2014 that’s appreciated about 50% but I’d be an idiot if that made me fill rich/happy. It’s a nice security blanket if we have a shock in our lives and need to sell, but we’d also like to trade up and the additional mortgage costs will be eye watering in this market.

          2. just millie

            +1 Ronan

            Excellent comment. This is, to me, the most accurate assessment of the housing situation in this country. Years upon years of weak leadership, a bit of self-interest, and a lack of long term thinking have rendered the housing market stagnant, and now (with the market at a point of crisis which will only worsen as the population continues to grow) they lack the conviction to take decisive action to do what is really needed because so many political decisions are made with an eye to self interest i.e. re-election, status quo etc.

            There is no conspiracy, just years and years of political ineptitude, a conservative voting population, and a lack of any cohesive opposition around which to form a realistic alternative, though SF could probably manage it if they can capitalise on this spectacularly poor performance of the rainbow coalition.

  2. Mr.T

    inb4 someone complains about density in finland – well in theory they have much lower population density, in practice its much higher, since vast swathes of Finland are essentially deserted.

    They have a much higher % of population living urban, and still manage to build more homes and have lower prices than us – bank interest rates not withstanding.

    1. Ronan

      According to this presentation:
      by someone from the City Executive, presented to some sort of ‘Academy of Urbanism’

      1. There are 330,000 households in Helsinki, 49% of which are single person. So it looks like they do well with 1 bed apartments and studios.
      2. There are 360,000 dwellings – so they are well stocked – but of this 85% of dwellings are in apartment buildings.

      So we can see what their policy is – lots of and lots of apartment living in the city. They basically make sure that:
      1. The state owns the land
      2. Mixed tenancy between owners, and various grades of social housing
      3. Someone can ensure tenancy for life by buying a minimum 15% of purchase prices in a mixed ownership model.

      So essentially, we could go on a state-led building spree, with private partners for actual construction, and if Dublin is willing to go 85% into mid-rise apartment buildings with their families this could be replicated.

      Is Ireland ready for 85% apartment dwelling on our cities?

      1. paddy apathy

        Is Ireland ready for 85% urban living in apartments? A big NO I’m afraid. We’re obsessed with commuter belt homogeneous estate 3 bed semi-d’s. And that is not going to change any time soon.

      2. Rob_G

        I don’t know if anyone will still be reading this thread, but came across this interesting article:

        Helsinki solved its housing problems by building really tiny apartments. I imagine that relaxing the rules on apartment sizes, dual-aspect, etc, would would be one very quick method of addressing the housing crisis; and, as single-person households are the fastest-growing household-type in the western world, perhaps we should be building types of dwellings that cater specifically to this demographic, rather than expecting them to foot the bill for an expensive two-bedroom apartment, or share in a 3-bedroom in the suburbs designed for a completely different sort of family unit.

        But as we saw on the Ranelagh thread, the proposal for anything other than 3-bed semis draws anguished cries about “transient residents” and “community”; as with any big, complex problem, there is no easy solution for the housing crisis.

  3. george

    He can afford a house. His definition of “a house in south Dublin” is probably not the same as mine.

    1. Ronan

      Exactly this.

      “I can’t buy the house I want in SCD/D4/D6/D14 so here’s an apples and oranges comparison of what I think it should be”

      Guess what, everyone else wants to live there, and you’re competing with couples that are 5-20 years further into their careers than you are, bought a gaff in Swords/D15 10 years ago and are now trading up to, ya know, where everyone wants to live.

      Either buy a smaller house somewhere you really want to live, or compromise on the area. Everyone has to make the same choices as you do, and no-one is going to magically make more of the most desirable semi-D lands in Dublin as the population in Dublin continues to increase rapidly.

      There are several other nice areas in Dublin which lack the cachet you seek but will provide you with a good place to live / start a family / do whatever you plan to do currently in SCD.

      Honestly, Knocklyon will be extend to Wicklow with a 2 hour bus trip to town before people see sense.

      1. Redundant Proofreaders Society

        Agreed, but the reality is there is no mobility in the housing market. So, even if you do buy in an area with a high scumbag ratio, it’s very hard to scale up. Ireland’s cyclical property booms and busts and high costs of moving mean you can end up frozen on the property ladder.

        1. Ronan

          I don’t know why we would expect high mobility in the housing market though. It’s certainly a problem in the rental sector, but the concept of a ladder is one of the things that got us into trouble in the first place.

          There’s no being frozen on the ladder, there’s only living where you can afford to live, or where you’re happy. If you’re unhappy and can afford to live somewhere more desirable to you, you’ll likely do so.

          The best thing to do is to make a decision on where you live that meets your needs. If you have 2 kids and aren’t planning more, and you don’t like the look of the neighbours around that 4 bed 1500sqft semi you just viewed, maybe you should consider an 1100 sqft 3 bed semi in an area you feel safer in – which would still give you a room for each kid, but a bit less space. Maybe look at how the house could be extended in 5-10 years if you have more money then due to falling childcare costs etc.

          Basically, have a plan that makes sense, for a home that balances location with affordability. I can see why people are opting out of the market currently, but that’s a decision they have to make and live with. Use your vote wisely, and try to find a party that’s going to do something about affordable housing in a time frame what will get you what’s important to you.

          I grew up in a 3 bed mid-terrace council house in the 80s – new build at a the time – with all of the social discomfort that you’d associate with growing up in a newly-built 100% social estate. I have all of the same misgivings about dodgier areas as everyone else.

          1. Redundant Proofreaders Society

            Stalled mobility is not good for socio-economic development, and it’s caused by lack of supply, lack of affordability, high construction costs, high moving costs and lack of government incentives. This is why we have big houses with only one or two people living in them, small apartments with families living on top of each other. You are surmising based on your personal preferences – you need to look at the bigger picture.

  4. Bob

    Why are we making nice areas nicer.

    Let make bad areas better.

    Where do we put the bad apples though?

  5. just millie

    This is one of the best set of comments and threads I’ve read on here in ages. Interesting, nuanced discussion.

    1. Ronan

      Challenge to drag it down accepted!

      If we excluded the unvaccinated from social housing we could make a real dent in the waiting lists.


    2. Un ouef, all ready

      Yes it was the reference to a ‘high scumbag ratio’ in one of the comments above that really impressed me also.

      1. just millie

        If that’s what impressed you, then we clearly have different standards.

        Or maybe you’re trying to be witty? So hard to tell online.

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