Housing Commission report suggests underlying housing deficit of up to 256,000 homes

Commission calls for ‘radical strategic reset of housing policy’ as Sinn Féin says leaked findings are ‘damning indictment’ of Government

A leaked report from the Housing Commission has called for a massive ramping up of the State’s involvement in the housing sector, arguing a State “funding anchor” is needed for fundamental and systemic failings in the market to be addressed.

New legislation, a new oversight body for housing, an expanded role for the State in funding housing, and overhauling of subsidies and schemes are among the recommendations from the Housing Commission’s report.

Sections of the report seen by The Irish Times criticise interventions that have “not resolved failures that are fundamentally systemic” and outline a pattern of “ineffective decision making and reactive policymaking where risk aversion dominates”.

It suggests there is an underlying housing deficit in Ireland of up to 256,000 homes.


These issues along with external influences “contribute to volatility in supply, undermining affordability in the system” and if they are not addressed there will “continue to be insufficient progress on the issues our society faces”.

The report says the backdrop to this is a “failure to successfully treat housing as a critical social and economic” factor which has seen a “lack of consistency in housing policy” and a situation where Ireland has among the highest levels of public expenditure for housing in Europe, but one of the poorest outcomes.

The report calls for an increase in the proportion of social and cost rental housing to 20 per cent, supported by a “long term commitment to stable levels of public financing” to supplement funding coming from private sources.

Among the recommendations that puts a clear focus on the State’s role is that it should support housing in a “broader context than simply catering for the acute needs of Ireland’s most vulnerable people” as the State has “the capacity to shape the market and remove distortions”.

It calls for the State to “provide a stable funding anchor that is constant in nature” and complemented by “diverse international sources” of finance. It recommends that the State play “both a direct and indirect role in funding housing for the purposes of scale” and should explore the establishment of a “specific private savings fund that can be used to assist in the funding of housing”.

It calls for the reform of housing assistance and rent supplement schemes, more incentives for urban brownfield and infill development - judging the current offering “wholly inadequate” - and for a new social housing act “to specify and protect the social purpose of the housing sector”.

The commission says a new Housing Delivery Oversight Executive should be established as a “decision making body responsible for co-ordinating the delivery of housing”, and says the State should support measures accelerating provision of affordable homes in urban areas for one and two person households.

It calls for a review of a policy goal aimed towards balanced regional development “at the expense of Dublin” and says that constraining the capitals growth risks distorting development in surrounding counties.

The findings of the report of the Housing Commission, which was set up to advise the Government on housing policy, are a “damning indictment” of the Government’s performance, Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin has said.

The commission report has been with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien for the past two weeks, though it is not expected to be published before he brings the issue to Cabinet, due in the coming weeks. It has been expected for some time that the commission would point to the need for much higher annual housing targets.

The Housing Commission was set up by the Government to advise on housing policy and includes members from a variety of backgrounds, including developers, academics and other experts. Its report has been long awaited, and has been expected to recommend a drastic upward shift in the government’s targets for housing construction.

Research by the Housing Commission, details of which emerged in January, said Ireland may need up to 62,000 homes built per year until 2050 to meet demand – almost double the annual target in the Government’s master plan for this decade.

The research, which was shared with Mr O’Brien in November last year, indicates Ireland requires between 42,000 and 62,000 new homes every year – under Mr O’Brien’s Housing for All strategy, 33,000 is the average annual target in the period to 2030.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday, Mr Ó Broin said on the latest Housing Commission report: “This isn’t just a report. These people are involved in the delivery of housing every day, the country’s leading experts and practitioners, and what they’re telling us is that the Government’s housing plan isn’t working ”

“They’re accusing both this Government and its predecessors of failing to treat housing as a critical social and economic priority,” he said, “and they also go on to say that it has one of the highest levels of public expenditure yet one of the poorest outcomes”.

“The crucial point is this,” Mr Ó Broin said, “does anybody really think that this Government who are defending a failing housing policy to the hilt is going to accept these findings and deliver a radical reset? I don’t believe they are, which is why we need a general election and a change of Government because only a Sinn Féin housing minister will deliver that radical reset.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the report is a damning indictment of the government’s failure to address the housing crisis.

“The Commission’s estimate of a housing deficit ranging from 212,500 to 256,000 homes, based on 2022 Census figures, sets out in stark terms the scale of the problem. Supply of housing is far too slow, and this deficit is proof of years of neglect and mismanagement. It’s not as though the Government hasn’t had opportunities to change course. Instead, they have relied excessively on the private market and implemented policies that merely tinker around the edges of a disaster,” she said.

“Years of economic prosperity have been wasted by successive governments that failed to tackle what is undoubtedly the issue of our time. Labour is calling for immediate, radical change. We would take decisive action to end the overreliance on private investors in the housing market and adopt a State-led approach to building more affordable homes, dealing with the rent crisis, and tackling homelessness,” she said.

On his way into this morning’s Cabinet meeting Taoiseach Simon Harris told reporters he was “very proud” of the work under way on housing. He said that “last year more than 32,000 homes were built and this year so far we’ve seen over 30,000 commence construction already ... so there are encouraging signs”.

“What we need now is we need a step change in terms of ambition,” he said, adding that the Government would take the recommendations “very seriously ... because we’re in the business of looking for more ideas, more novel approaches, more novel approaches to continue to increase housing supply”.

“These people are the cause of the problem,” Mr Ó Broin said, “and now he’s saying after those 12 years they’re only going to start fixing it now. They need to go.”

Later today the Dáil will hear more than four hours of debate on housing, with statements on the Government’s housing for all plan, followed by a Sinn Féin motion on the issue this evening.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times