What can be done about housing crisis? Experts give their views

Suggestions include a site planning tax and ways to tackle the number of vacant houses

As research published on Friday showed house prices in Ireland will continue to rise over the next five to 10 years unless drastic action is taken, we asked a range of people for their views on what should be done.

Reduce vacancy rate

“If there’s any quick win in the Irish housing market it’s around reducing the vacancy rate, probably by about half.

But to do that we’d need to have complete registers of who owns what and who lives where, and we don’t have that.

“We need to understand what the cost of construction is and how and why it varies from other countries - is it more expensive to build an apartment in Dublin than Amsterdam or Birmingham, and why.


“The third area is around reforming social housing. Even if you tackle construction costs there’s still going to be a fraction of the population that will never be able to cover the full cost of their accommodation, so you need to have the subsidies in place and they need to be distinct from the private sector.

“Ultimately if we want a healthy housing system we need to be able to build where it’s needed, that will increasingly be in and around the urban cores, so we need to review things like height restrictions, requirements around lifts, basement car parking spaces, all these sorts of things.

“It may get reviewed anyway around construction costs but also around land use: if we need to replace industrial estates with housing, or if you look at army barracks or bus depots, all these outdated forms of land use. We need to think about how we use land.”

Dr Ronan Lyons, Daft.ie and TCD economist

Introduce site planning tax

“We need a site planning tax, a tax on land, that’s number one. The second thing I would suggest is the establishment of a municipal housing company to build social and affordable housing, something up to €200,000/€300,000.

"I think to solve the housing crisis we need to find better mechanisms to reuse our vacant housing stock, that's the big one. That's the stuff that's there waiting to be done."Dr Lorcan Sirr, housing lecturer DIT

Provide better rental accommodation

“We need to think of the housing market in a way that is different to the way we’ve looked at it historically. We need to accept that people are renting in the longer term and therefore we need to provide better and more affordable rental accommodation with better security of tenure to ensure that people can actually make a home in the rented sector.

“A rental sector, even one that provides for limited rent increases, is going to be unaffordable for many older people and therefore we do need to ensure that we have social housing in significant quantities that we don’t have at the moment, so we’re back to the whole supply issue again.

"I think we need to accept that, together with affordable rental and measures to ensure that happens, we prioritise social housing and I think that needs to be done over and above the private market, because as we're seeing the impacts on people who have lower incomes is more severe and therefore needs to be addressed as a greater priority." Senator Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of Threshold housing agency

Build more affordable housing

“One of the key solutions we’ve been proposing is there is a section of the population, households that earn between €40,000-€65,000, who are absolutely locked out of the private sector market for purchase or indeed even for renting. What we’re arguing is it’s €100,000 less per unit for the council to build a family home than it is for the private sector.

“What we think needs to happen is the State needs to provide local authorities with the funds to build good-quality affordable housing, some of which will be sold at affordable rates.

“In addition to selling some of them we should have others at affordable rent. These will be for families or individuals who are not eligible for social housing, whose income is above that threshold of €35,000-€40,000, below the €60,000-€70,000 level, and the money that is generated from that should then be used to build the next phase of that housing. So it’s not subsidised, and in fact the State might be able to knick a small return on it but still bring the properties in €100,000 less than in the private sector.

"On the broader issue of the cost of private sector production we have to have a report as a matter of urgency with European comparators, and then we have to have a proper conversation to say 'ok, what does Government need to do to push down the price of the private sector units'." Eoin Ó Broin TD, Sinn Féin housing spokesman

Convert above-shop units

"There are 260,000 homes, 15 per cent of total housing stock, which are vacant across the country according to the Central Statistics Office. These have to be utilised as homes. In addition there are thousands of square feet of liveable space in the commercial zoned buildings and these can also be used for residential use with relatively limited refurbishment or redevelopment.

“The above-shop units are available across the country in both urban and rural areas. While new builds will continue to be the main source of new housing, with some imagination and refurbishment these vacant spaces can be changed to use as very comfortable accommodation.

"The State has to provide and invest in more social and affordable housing. This can be done by removing the numerous barriers faced by each local authority to delivering more social and affordable housing." Barry Cowen TD, Fianna Fáil housing spokesman

Keep Help to Buy

“What we are finding is that where there’s an increase in the supply of new homes, prices increases are moderating. So I would say the Help to Buy scheme is working.

"We probably need to do more to reduce construction costs and to increase output. That's the real challenge for the Minister." Mark Fitzgerald, chairman and former chief executive Sherry Fitzgerald

Impose hoarding tax

“In principle, I would support a tax on anyone who is hoarding land, but what does hoarding land mean? I don’t know any developers who hoard land because if they can build on it and make a profit, then of course they would do so. It can’t apply to people who are actively developing but are having to do it in phases.

"We cannot afford the current tax take out of houses. The government has to understand the supply issues we have and do something about it." Michael O'Flynn, developer