New bodies needed to secure finance for social housing

State advisory body says Irish housing system offers little protection against vagaries of market

New housing institutions are needed which can attract the kind of finance required for an ambitious new programme of social housing, according to a Government advisory body.

It is one of a number of proposals in a report by the National Social and Economic Council due to be published later today.

The report, Social Housing at the Crossroads: Possibilities for Investment, Provision and Cost Rental, says rising rents, a shortage of homes and a lack of security in tenancies are contributing to serious problems for those on low incomes.

These issues are also creating a risk of overcrowding and homelessness, plus State exposure to rising private rents.


The report proposes solutions aimed at helping to increase housing supply and ensure rents are more stable and affordable. They include:


Providing low-cost finance for new housing institutions

that does not add to State debt;


Reforming how rents are charged in social housing to make it more affordable and attractive;


More direct public policy influence on house supply and urban development, if housing provision is no longer to be developer-led.

Little protection

“Despite State investment of over €2 billion per annum, the Irish housing system offers little protection – for the State or for individuals – against the vagaries of housing and financial markets,” said Dr Rory O’Donnell, director of the council.

“The central challenge is to create an effective and interconnected combination of finance, supply and cost rental.”

He said experience strongly suggested these connections would not be established automatically or by providing incentives to unco-ordinated private or public bodies: “Instead, we believe new institutional arrangements are necessary to move policy in this direction.”

The report says the Government should immediately establish a high-level task force to explore these requirements and design institutional arrangements to improve finance, supply and rental policy.

It says public housing institutions capable of attracting finance without adding to the national debt are needed. Such providers would need an adequate rental income stream to meet Eurostat’s test of being in the market sector rather than the government sector.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent