IDA officials anxious about impact of housing crisis on inward investment, emails show

Internal records from State agency show firms’ perceptions of ‘unfavourable’ situation

Officials in IDA Ireland have expressed anxiety about the impact of the housing crisis on big business, saying the lack of accommodation was “not positive” for Ireland.

With building commencements slowing down in 2022 despite increased construction targets for 2023, internal records from the State’s inward investment agency show how companies raising housing issues had described an “unfavourable” situation.

IDA Ireland ranks among the most powerful public agencies because of links with 1,700 international companies that employ some 300,000 people, which equates to almost 12 per cent of the State’s 2.55 million workforce.

Although the Government is confident the 2022 target of 24,600 new homes was met, the 2023 target is for 29,000 homes. Total housing commencements in the 12 months to November stood at 26,898, down 11.9 per cent year on year.


IDA records released under the Freedom of Information Act show its officials setting out concern about housing to the Department of Housing.

Rental shortage

“As you can guess IDA’s clients are worried about the housing and in particular the rental situation across the country and I [would] just like to get an update from you on where you feel our rental policy is at and any new developments,” said one email from Tommy Fanning, IDA head of strategic policy.

Separate partially redacted October records show “housing issues” in Cork that were highlighted by an unnamed company, with an official noting the business in question was “not alone” and saying this was “not a positive place for Ireland Inc to be”.

Cork is a big inward investment centre given the presence there of large tech groups such as Apple and pharma groups such as Pfizer.

Patrick Doyle, an IDA regional manager, said the housing struggles set out by the unnamed company were “not an isolated occurrence” and cited a colleague “who has met far more client companies than I in the past six months [who] has had the same experience”.

“The southwest team and I met with [company named redacted] ourselves a few weeks ago and they did paint a very unfavourable picture,” Mr Doyle said in an email to officials.

Overseas talent

“We often have companies complaining of challenges attracting talent but most companies seem to find innovative ways around this. Unfortunately if the solution is to attract talent from overseas, they are inevitably hit with the issue of locating housing for them.

“I know that this isn’t news to you but I feel it important to raise it again. I also feel it important to present you with a live case study of its impact on a company who are on a growth path.”

Despite record job creation this year, business people say privately that questions over rising rents and the lack of housing supply are an ever-more urgent consideration for companies considering Ireland as an investment base.

Asked about the emails, Mr Fanning of the IDA said: “Housing for All is a very good plan but I would also say it is an imperative that the numbers under Housing for All for this decade are achieved or are exceeded.”

He added: “It is an imperative for all of us, not just for [foreign direct investment] but for indigenous companies as well that the housing market functions normally.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times