US firms warn housing crisis could harm Ireland’s competitiveness

Call for 30,000 rental properties for multinational staff

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy: will bring a memo to Cabinet next week addressing concerns surrounding dangerous rental accommodation exposed by an RTÉ documentary. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy: will bring a memo to Cabinet next week addressing concerns surrounding dangerous rental accommodation exposed by an RTÉ documentary. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A representative body for US businesses, including some of the biggest employers in the country, has warned the housing crisis is so severe it could damage Ireland’s competitiveness.

A report for the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland said more than 30,000 new one- and two-bedroom rental properties will be needed in Dublin by 2022 to sustain new jobs in multinational companies and maintain growth in inward investment.

The report said 232,500 new housing units will be required nationally over the next five years, including 81,500 in the greater Dublin area. Of these, 82,500 will be required in the rental sector, including 32,500 in and around Dublin.

Demand for new dwellings is estimated to be “at least 40,000 and closer to 50,000 per year,” according to the report on the housing shortage and its impact on foreign direct investment (FDI).

The chamber said that expanding and newly arrived companies are finding it particularly hard to house staff because of a shortage in city-centre apartments. It cites housing as one of the most critical “pressure points” when looking to recruit to expand their Irish operations.

‘Hedging strategy’

It said rental shortages are so severe that companies have started using a “hedging strategy” of renting short-term accommodation for staff in urban locations before they have even been hired.

The companies are managing the challenges but are “reaching a tipping point”, the report says.

Recruiters for multinationals have reported demand for accommodation close to their workplaces for young and single staff, but a shortage of suitable apartments has left foreign employees “surprised” at having to share three- and four-bedroom suburban semi-detached houses.

Meanwhile, the Government is examining establishing an online portal to allow tenants to confidentially raise complaints about sub-standard and overcrowded accommodation with local authorities.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is to bring a memo to Cabinet next week addressing concerns surrounding dangerous rental accommodation exposed by an RTÉ documentary on Thursday night.

It is understood Mr Murphy is willing to examine an NCT-style certification system for rental properties.

The Minister is to examine the logistics behind the measure with his officials at the Department of Housing, and whether on-site inspections can take place.

Online system

In addition, an online system is being assessed to allow councils to target properties in high-risk categories. The complaint would not have to be from a tenant but could be from a neighbour or a person who has concerns about the quality of accommodation.

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said: “We recognise the issue of quality and non-compliance with standards in rental accommodation problem.

“This is being driven by the high levels of housing need and demand, particularly in urban areas, and the high levels of rent prices. In this context many individuals and families accept poor-quality accommodation because the rent may be somewhat cheaper and will not complain to the local authority as they fear losing their home.

“Less-scrupulous landlords may opt not to incur the costs of ensuring and maintaining the quality of their properties as, in practice, even below-quality properties attract tenants and substantial rents.”

Figures from the Department of Housing show there were 19,092 inspections carried out in 2016.

At total of 325,000 tenancies are registered with the Residential Tenancies Board.

Examples of poor-quality accommodation featured in the RTÉ broadcast included overcrowded rooms, properties with mould and exposed electrical sockets, and problems with water leaking into rooms. Dublin Fire Brigade closed three properties featured in the programme over fire safety concerns.