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Ireland's housing crisis: The problems, the solutions and the human cost

The next part of The Good Information Project from The Journal will look at the core issues at the heart of Ireland’s housing crisis.

WHEN NEWS BROKE that an investment fund had snapped up 135 newly-built homes at a development in Maynooth, Co Kildare last month, the Government was panicked into action by an Irish public emerging from a global pandemic. 

Suddenly the housing crisis, for so long the key social issue for people living in this country, become the key political issue once more, providing the coalition parties with a wake-up call and forcing a series of on-the-hoof policy decisions in response. 

Investment funds bulk-buying swathes of real estate in Ireland is not a new phenomenon but the Cairn Hill scandal evoked an anger of pre-pandemic levels and shifted focus back to developers, sweetheart land deals, failed public housing policy and the core issues of supply and affordability. 

It rammed home that more than a decade since the financial crash many people still can’t afford to buy a house or apartment in Ireland in 2021, and that our system as it functions is not set up for lifetime rental. Others are being priced out of their home towns and cities, or have had to emigrate. 

Recent pressure on the government may have forced its hand in enacting small measures, the effectiveness of which remains to be seen, but the core issues remain.

The National Economic and Social Council wrote in a major report on housing last year that “without a change in the system, we are condemned to an endless sequence of isolated measures that seek to generate a little more viability, a slight reduction in risk, a marginal increase in supply, a slightly higher share of affordable housing and a minor shift from greenfield to brownfield development”.

That endless sequence seems to be in full effect. 

Average monthly rent in Dublin is about to hit €2,000. The cost of houses and apartments increased by 3.7% nationally in the year to March, according to the latest data from the Central Statistics Office, which is the 12th month in a row that there has been an increase.

The number of residential units put forward for planning in the first three months of this year also dropped by 29% compared to the same period in 2020 due to Covid-19 as the spectre of further rent increases looms – what was already a crisis it seems has now become an emergency. 

But there are solutions too, and over the coming weeks we plan to examine some of the core issues at the heart of housing policy in Ireland.

Why does it cost so much to build here? How can we increase local authority housing supply and provide affordable homes? Will government policy like the newly-established Land Development Agency actually deliver, and what legislative change is required?

We’ll also take a look at examples of housing projects in Europe, dive into the issue of short-term lets, the future of co-living and explore just how much Covid-19 has affected development in Ireland. 

And we want to hear your housing story and your ideas too – the topics you want to know more about and how we should cover them as we look to answer these questions as part of TheJournal’s Good Information Project. 

In the mean time, you can follow The Journal on social media to stay part of the conversation.

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We want to hear from you 

The Journal recently launched The Good Information Project with the goal of enlisting readers to take a deep dive with us into key issues impacting Ireland right now. 

Over the coming weeks, we’re going to take a look at all of these angles as we try to dive deeper into Ireland’s housing crisis. 

You can keep up to date by signing up to The Good Information Project newsletter in the box below. If you want to join the discussion, ask questions or share your ideas on this or other topics, you can find our Facebook group here or contact us directly via WhatsApp.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here 

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