Ireland's housing contradictions and Dublin's great property divide

How the great property divide plays out in the Irish capital

 From left: Kennedy Wilson’s Capital Dock   Mary Ricks, the company’s chairman William J. McMorrow and Minister for Finance  Paschal Donohoe   inspect the company’s new Capital Dock scheme.

From left: Kennedy Wilson’s Capital Dock Mary Ricks, the company’s chairman William J. McMorrow and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe inspect the company’s new Capital Dock scheme.

 

One of the great fault lines of our time is housing or, to give it its precise nuance, housing insecurity. The great divide between those that can afford increasingly lavish pads in increasingly exclusive areas and those who are, to use an Irish trope, left outside the Big House, lingering on rent supports and damned to the margins.

The divide has become so shrill, so potentially explosive, that it is sucking in so much of the political and economic narrative that surrounds this State.

Just this week we were given a sneak preview of Kennedy Wilson’s new Capital Dock scheme replete with on-site concierge, cinema, gym and chef’s kitchen, where two-bedroom apartments will rent for €3,300 a month.

The 22-story structure, the State’s tallest building, is the perfect avatar for Ireland’s economic success, nestled as it is in Dublin’s south docklands, a stone’s throw from Google, Facebook and Twitter, and opposite the equally plush new Central Bank building.

At the same time as details of Kennedy Wilson’s extravagant riverside scheme were released, the founder of Focus Ireland, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, told us that a new family is becoming homeless in Ireland every eight hours.

How this statistic can be squared with the fact that Ireland has had the fastest growing economy in the EU for the past four years, and, according to Global Finance Magazine, is now the 14th richest country in the world is a fruitless question. A tale of two cities, perhaps, but geographically just one.

Rising house prices were once an electoral asset for the likes of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. They made homeowners feel richer and more likely to reward the administration that presided over them.

Not anymore. Rising house prices are a big negative for young voters. Young voters that will grow up having never voted for either of the establishment parties, but who will blame them for being materially worse off than their parents. Governments beware, this is a time bomb.

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