National Economic Dialogue is told institutional landlords add to housing mix

Minister says homes for people starting first job ‘have not been affordable...and there needs to be something to bridge that gap’

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: he says  the “affordability gap” for housing will not be  bridged by the levelling off of prices  alone. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy: he says the “affordability gap” for housing will not be bridged by the levelling off of prices alone. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Institutional landlords have brought new housing supply on stream that otherwise would not have existed, according to a panel at the National Economic Dialogue, which included Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

The panel discussing “affordable and balanced housing supply” highlighted the importance of the mix in delivery of supply for developing a sustainable housing model.

However, prices from developments by institutional landlords were “outside affordable levels, so other models are required as a complement”, Dr Conor O’Toole, a senior research officer at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the panel’s rapporteur, told the event.

Discussing the need to improve the stock of affordable housing, the panel acknowledged that public authorities have a “critical role in delivering housing”. There were mixed views on as to how that could be achieved.

The Part V obligations on developers, which require social and affordable housing to be included in large schemes, could be improved, it was suggested, with those obligations perhaps widened or made more “bespoke”.

Also mooted by the panel was the possibility of using compulsory purchase orders to “incentivise activations of brownfield sites”, and the idea that planning authorities should encourage housing clusters and discourage the proliferation of one-off housing.

The panel questioned whether the use of the Help-to-Buy scheme – which helps first-time buyers with a deposit for new builds – should continue to be used for one-off housing.

Secure home

Caroline Fahey, social policy development officer with the Society of St Vincent de Paul, said later that the State was spending close to half a billion euro on the housing assistance payment each year and now needed to ensure that it was involved in “build and acquisition” to give people an affordable and secure home across their lifetime.

She added that the issue of not having home ownership would feed through to pension problems in time given that people would have to pay private rent out of their pension.

Alan Barrett, the chairman of the dialogue and director of the ESRI, asked whether the levelling off of house prices was seen by the panel as a good thing.

Mr Murphy said there was “recognition in the room that the affordability gap wouldn’t be bridged by that alone”.

The Minister added that there was a gap in the middle, meaning that homes for people starting a first job, for example, “have not been affordable...and there needs to be something to bridge that gap”.

Dr O’Toole noted that panel put a lot of focus on social housing, adding that “the State needs to play an active role in delivering for those households”.

Poverty

On a separate panel discussing the improvement in income and living conditions in the State, rapporteur Prof Dorothy Watson, a research professor at the ESRI, said her panel, which included Minister Regina Doherty, discussed how the State could alleviate poverty while also avoiding the reduction of incentives to work.

Prof Watson said the panel discussed retention of the medical card for a number of years after one re-enters the workforce, for example, while lauding the qualified child payment for older children as a good case of reducing poverty while still incentivising employment.

Other panels which reported findings on Thursday discussed the economy as a whole, climate change, agriculture and the changing world of work.