Successive ministers given ‘poor housing advice’ by civil servants

‘There is a history of poor guidance which is holding up development’


The quality of advice being given to Government Ministers is very poor according to Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in housing studies and urban economics at DIT.

Successive ministers with responsibility for housing have been given poor guidance by civil servants who have held up development in Ireland, he said.

“The Government last year put 12,500 people into the rental market – people who should have been housed by the State – that is increasing competition in the rental market and is driving up rents,” he added.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, Mr Sirr also said there was a need for European style plans for long term renting as in the near future 30-31 per cent of all households are going to be in the rental sector

“There is a need to prepare for this. More than 20 per cent of households are renting at present.

“We need options other than renting and owning. The banks need to be more flexible and look at other options and schemes,” he said.

Among the options he suggested were more build to rent schemes, offering long term rents. “Irish pension funds are investing in long term rental units in Hong Kong and elsewhere and they should do the same here”.

Another measure he suggested is the introduction of emergency powers for local authorities to make compulsory purchases of vacant sites at existing use value so they could be developed for social housing.

He cautioned that the Central Bank restrictions need to stay in place, and warned: “if they are loosened house prices will sky rocket”.

On the suggestion of the introduction of a minister for housing, he said: “I don’t know if a minister for housing will make a difference. We would get someone in the position who might be a school teacher. They are going to rely on others for advice. They will listen to civil servants, who over the past several years have made a bit of a mess with housing, holding up rather than facilitating”.

“The quality of the advice that Ministers have been getting is not good. There is a history of poor guidance which is holding up development. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just grease it”.