The private sector model seems unable to produce homes at affordable rates

The political parties have prioritised home ownership, but for many it will mean living outside of Dublin

More people are opting to buy in cheaper commuter belt areas, all of which results in a sub-optimal use of land and a more congested transport system. Photograph: Getty Images

More people are opting to buy in cheaper commuter belt areas, all of which results in a sub-optimal use of land and a more congested transport system. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Not everyone can afford to live in big cities. It’s a fact in Dublin, London, Sydney and Shanghai. For most people it means you have to commute. Is this unfair? Yes. Is it a fact of life in most big industrial cities? Yes.

If Fine Gael gets railroaded out of the office this weekend, a possibility that’s looking increasingly likely after presiding over one of the most remarkable economic turnarounds in Irish history, it may wonder if it’s being unfairly scapegoated for a problem that appears to be universal.

The exodus of buyers to the capital’s commuter belt is detailed in a report by leading property website MyHome.ie, which juxtaposes a fall-off in Dublin property transactions last year with a pick-up in activity in surrounding counties like Wicklow, Kildare and Meath. The same happened in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

We need more dense development – such as Sean Mulryan’s 23-storey apartment block scheme at Connolly Station that got planning permission on Friday. The dilemma is that apartment building in Ireland costs more, and fewer and fewer people can afford it.

This results in more people opting to buy in cheaper commuter belt areas, all of which results in a sub-optimal use of land and a more congested transport system – as well as the risk of being stranded should the property cycle turn once more.

This is just one of several glaring contradictions that course through the housing sector here. The political parties have prioritised home ownership in their election manifestos but for many it seems it will be realised only outside of Dublin.

The bulk of housing in Ireland comes via private sector speculation, but this model seems increasing unable to produce homes at affordable rates – in other words for people on low to middle incomes. That’s because the cost of residential construction is out of kilter with wages.

A big uptick in supply is not going to correct that. Just because there is a demand for 35,000 homes doesn’t mean people can’t afford to buy them.

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