Review of the year: Housing shortage drove up rents, prices and homelessness

The house price crash and negative equity crisis were all a bad dream – now we’re in another one

The year opened with the news that the Dublin property market had turned a corner. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

The year opened with the news that the Dublin property market had turned a corner. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

 

The Dublin housing market had a Bobby-Ewing-stepping-out-of-the-shower moment in 2014. That house-price crash, those fire-sale auctions, that negative-equity crisis: it was all a dream.

Suddenly the talk turned to rocketing prices, first-time buyers priced out of the capital, rents rising by up to 50 per cent, bidding wars, and property supplements heavy with estate agents’ ads.

The year opened with the news that the Dublin property market had turned a corner. Asking prices for homes in the capital had risen by just over 10 per cent in 2013, and it was likely that figure would increase during the year.

But the managing director of Myhome.ie, Angela Keegan, warned that the “weak supply of new housing stock, particularly in Dublin, will be one of the main challenges facing the property market in 2014”.

It emerged in January that Dublin City Council, the State’s largest landlord, with more than 25,000 houses and flats, had built 29 homes in 2013 and had more than 16,000 people on its housing waiting list.

The council’s head of housing, Dick Brady, said there was an “urgent need to increase housing supply in the city”, but in terms of building the number of houses needed, there wasn’t the cash.

By the end of the month there was bad news for renters in the private sector. The tenants’ rights organisation Threshold warned of a developing crisis in the rental sector.

In March Fr Peter McVerry wrote in this newspaper: “The problem of homelessness is out of control; it is getting worse every week and no one appears to be doing anything about it.”

His article spelled out the final grim destination of the runaway trains of house-price and rent rises, matched with a lack of social-housing construction. “Among the normal exits out of homelessness are [moving] into social housing and private rented accommodation. It is now almost impossible for homeless people to access private rented accommodation.”

Construction 2020

In June the Central Statistics Office told us that the cost of renting a home rose more than 20 times faster than the average rate of inflation over the past year. Towards the end of that month builders began work on 676 new homes in Dublin. The number of houses built in all of 2013 was 1,360.

In August there were new projections of the numbers of homes needed in Dublin, this time from the Economic and Social Research Institute, which said that almost 60,000 houses and apartments needed to be built by 2021 to meet demands.

Not long afterwards the Dublin Housing Supply Taskforce gave an indication of the chances of these homes being built. Dublin had enough land zoned and ready for construction to accommodate 46,000 new homes.

That potential was not going to be realised any time soon, however. Only 11 housing estates, amounting to fewer than 700 homes, had been granted planning permission in the first half of this year.

Myhome.ie had more house-price news in September. Prices in the capital rose by 25 per cent in the previous 12 months.

More solutions from the Government came in October. Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly announced details of the upcoming planning Bill. Developers would no longer be able to buy their way out of building social housing, and a levy on vacant sites would be introduced to end “land hoarding”.

Dublin City Council revealed its updated housing waiting list. Those 16,000 applicants had swelled to just under 20,000.

In November the Dublin Region Homeless Executive published its annual rough-sleeper count. The number of people sleeping on the streets of the capital was the highest since official counting began, in 2007, and had almost trebled in five years.

On the night of November 11th, 168 people were found sleeping on the city’s streets, up 20 per cent on the 139 people in the 2013 winter count, and a 180 per cent increase since November 2009.

As the year drew to a close the grim warnings of the ultimate price of the capital’s lack of housing were shockingly realised. Jonathan Corrie, a 43-year-old homeless man, died near Leinster House. The Government was spurred into action. All homeless rough sleepers would be offered beds by Christmas.

Homeless campaigners welcomed the extra beds but sounded a note of caution. This was not the end of the homeless crisis; many of these beds would be open only until March. What was needed was the construction of permanent homes – and lots of them.

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