Ireland has an ‘accommodation crisis’, not a housing crisis

Report highlights multifaceted shortage in living accomodation

Housing completions nationally rose by 25 per cent to 18,072 last year and are expected to be up again this year. Photograph: Alan Betson

Housing completions nationally rose by 25 per cent to 18,072 last year and are expected to be up again this year. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Ireland does not have a housing crisis, it has an “accommodation crisis”, according to a report by development finance group Cullaun Capital.

The report, which is based on a recent panel debate involving several leading property experts, noted that the current crisis was multilayered and extended beyond a simple housing-supply shortage.

It encompassed rising rates of homelessness, the shortage of nursing home beds and the lack of appropriate and affordable housing for students.

Architect Arthur O’Brien said he did not believe the statistics support the use of the word “crisis”, stating that there were 2,500 more housing units built in the year to March 2019 than were sold.

Guidelines

Panellists also disputed the narrative that developers were hoarding land, noting “it was important to recognise how long it takes to deliver housing to the market”.

They also claimed that recent changes to the density guidelines had contributed to lengthy delays in bringing developments to market.

They said delays in getting more homes to market could be bridged via modular housing, where the units are built in a factory and transported to the site.This would also bridge the current skills gap.

Housing completions nationally rose by 25 per cent to 18,072 last year and are expected to be up again this year. However, they are still expected to lag demand in the economy, which is estimated at 30,000 units annually. Industry experts question whether there is sufficient manpower available to build at this level.

“Could you click your fingers and have 40,000 units? Absolutely not, because of the skills gap,” Derek Poppinga from Mm Capital, who pointed to cost inflation as an increasing challenge and emphasised the need to consider modular housing.

Agreement

There was unanimous agreement that there needed to be new typologies or housing configurations other than the standard three-bed-semi estates.

Up to two-thirds of younger people stay single through choice into their mid-30s, while the elderly may find themselves single for longer for other reasons, the report noted.

“Ireland is only at about 60 per cent urbanisation”, said chief executive of Batra Capital Property Mike Flannery, “compared with a likely typical average of 80 per cent elsewhere. “We are going to have to change the whole range of typology” he said. “It is not possible with all the will in the world to give everyone a front garden, a back garden and three bedrooms.”

Fidelma McManus from legal firm Beauchamps talked of the need for greater co-operation between the public and private sector on housing.

“We need to deliver good places to live and work, within sustainable communities, and we can’t do that without a cohesive approach,” she said.