David McWilliams: Ireland builds houses at the wrong time, in the wrong place, at the wrong price

The housing units we plan to build will not be enough, not by half

The construction industry must realise that landowners are not on the same side as builders. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The construction industry must realise that landowners are not on the same side as builders. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Planning for housing based on national population dynamics is one of the most basic functions of economic policy in any country. More people means more homes delivered at stable prices, built by a healthy, innovative construction industry, using the most up-to-date techniques to meet whatever communal and societal standards are expected without requiring long commutes.

This is what proper countries do. On this score, Ireland is the dunce of Europe. We build in the wrong places, at the wrong price, at the wrong time, driven by the interests of landowners and banks, leading to booms and slumps, bankruptcies, ghost estates and now hundreds of thousands of citizens priced out of a pathetically dysfunctional market. This has to stop.

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