Could a housing commission reach consensus on such a politically divisive issue?

Cantillon: Thorny topics of affordability and density could prove tricky to agree upon

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will take part in an  an online seminar on Thursday morning under the auspices of the Dublin Economic Workshop. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will take part in an an online seminar on Thursday morning under the auspices of the Dublin Economic Workshop. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Is Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien set to move on the commitment in the programme for government to establish a commission to look at the thorny issue of housing? And if so what will it do?

The commitment to establish the commission was, a bit curiously, put at the end of the chapter on housing in the programme, and it was something to happen “ in addition” to a whole range of policies already outlined. So while a commission on welfare and taxation and a separate one on pensions look like vehicles to scope out options – or delay decisions if you wanted to take a cynical approach – it is not quite clear where the housing one might fit it. The programme says it might look at issues like tenure, standards, sustainability and quality of life.

The Minister’s presence at an online seminar on Thursday morning under the auspices of the Dublin Economic Workshop (sign-ups can be made at www.dublineconomics.com), suggests he is indeed looking at moving on the idea. A group of economists and housing experts have come together to call for a wide-ranging 18-month study to try to reach a consensus on housing, in much the same way as Sláintecare did on health.

Is housing too politically divisive an issue to allow this to happen? With all sides agreeing that the State will play a bigger role in housing provision, there may be an opportunity to scope out exactly how this will happen, and to set parameters on what we mean by words such as affordability.

A commission could also, as part of its work, examine the vital question of sustainability. The current State plan is based on “densification” – having more people living closer together near city centres, served by public transport links.

Post-pandemic there are obvious questions to be answered here in terms of how close people live together, and whether the likely changes in work patterns – and more working from home – needs to alter this strategy. As not only housing investment but billions being spend on public transport hang on this, it is vital to update our national strategy.

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