I teach but can’t afford to buy a home in Dublin. Is moving my only option?

Ask Brian: There is a strong case to ensure we provide affordable housing for critical public-sector workers

Young teachers have little hope of being able to afford a home in the capital nowadays. Photograph: iStock

Young teachers have little hope of being able to afford a home in the capital nowadays. Photograph: iStock


I teach Irish and maths in a south Dublin school and have formed some strong friendships with colleagues over the past five years. My fiancé and I would love to buy a home and, hopefully, have children. Our only hope to realise our dream is to move outside the capital because of the cost. Do other jurisdictions have these problems?

I commenced a career in teaching in south Dublin in September 1976, was able on one teacher’s salary to purchase a newly built family home in north Wicklow three years later, and relocate to a family home within walking distance of my school on two teachers’ salaries by 1985.

As you point out, replicating such a scenario in 2019 is impossible in the current housing market in Dublin, or in our other major cities.

Major high-tech employers have addressed this problem by purchasing entire apartment buildings to house their own workers, at rents compatible with their salaries.

Providers of core public services such as teachers, nurses, civil and public servants, gardaí, without whom our cities cannot operate, have no such access to affordable housing, and must compete in the private market.

A new trend evident in the past year or so is the purchase for rental purposes of entire property developments by investment funds, thus excluding young couples from even competing alongside those hoping to acquire a family home.

Third-level institutions have faced up to the problem of housing students by building extensive apartment complexes on their grounds. Take a walk through UCD if you want to see the extent of this practice.

The Government has access to extensive publicly-owned land banks in Dublin and other cities. The same Government is also now investing several hundred million every year in rebuilding the pension reserve funds which were depleted during the financial crisis.

What better long-term use could such funds be invested in, other than to build, in cooperation with the developers currently operating in our cities, a mix of apartment and housing developments offered at affordable rent, with the option to purchase after a period of years of public service, to those employed in the public service occupations listed above?

Without such a plan, schools, hospitals, Government departments and local authority employers will continue to struggle to secure and retain the services of young workers. Cities such as Vienna have successfully addressed this dilemma and created a well-functioning urban environment in which people work and live.

If we want to attract and retain high-quality public-service employees, we are going to have to intervene in the market to ensure they can live healthy family lives close to their workplaces. Without such a policy initiative on the part of Government, public services in all our major urban centres will degrade rapidly.