Company towns and accommodation

 

Sir, – Further to “US firms warn housing crisis could harm Ireland’s competitiveness” (November 4th), I am somewhat surprised that medium and large American companies are not engaged in building and providing accommodation for their employees in the city.

Observers of Facebook will know that in recent years, the company has part-funded $120 million mixed-use development in Menlo Park, California, providing 394 apartments for employees and has pledged to set aside a number of units in the development to the local community on an affordable basis. In 2013, Google partly funded the Franklyn Street Family Apartments in Mountainview, California, creating affordable housing for 51 families near its campus.

When you consider what Facebook is doing in Menlo Park to address the housing shortage there, why isn’t it doing the same here?

The notion of “company towns” or employer-provided accommodation is of course not a new phenomenon. During the late 19th and early 20th century, large companies such as Cadburys, Siemens and Lever Brothers built and provided accommodation for employees respectively.

As far back as 1872, Guinness began building houses for employees to rent in Belview and Thomas Court, which adjoin the St James’s Gate brewery This initial development was augmented by further housing which was built in Rialto in the 1880s. Indeed, Guinness’s policy of providing homes for employees continued well into the 20th century.

The location of many large companies in Dublin has contributed in no small part to the scarcity of adequate accommodation in the city. A situation which is likely to worsen if more companies choose to locate here as a result of Brexit. Moreover, the purchasing power of such employees has contributed towards displacing (indeed forcing out) many people in rental accommodation in the city who cannot afford to keep up with the rents which many private landlords are now chasing.

The American Chamber of Commerce report is correct in its assessment that the housing crisis could harm Ireland’s competitiveness. The availability of affordable housing for employees is a key factor taken into account by companies in choosing to invest in a given country. But medium and large companies “investing” in the economy also have to play their part, especially when they are the beneficiaries of one of the most generous corporate tax regimes in the world.

Perhaps, Eoghan Murphy as Minister for Housing might examine the idea of incentivising medium and large employers (public and private) to build and provide accommodation for their employees as part of the solution to the city’s ever worsening housing shortage. As Facebook’s Anton Menlo development has shown, it is a practical solution which works for both employers and the community at large and furthermore, it makes economic sense. – Yours, etc,

NIALL NELIGAN,

Lecturer in Law,

Department of Law,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Further to “US firms issue housing shortage warning” (Front page, November 4th), we need to discuss the possibility of high-rise and medium-rise housing, and not to simply dismiss this type of housing on the premise that it did not work on a long-term basis in Ballymun.

The recruiters for multinationals are requesting accommodation close to their workplace, and this would not appear to be an unreasonable request; the article refers to “young and single staff”. The same article refers to a shortage of city-centre apartments. Surely high-rise and medium-rise housing is part of the solution?

When one visits other European cities one can observe such housing being incorporated into the housing mix.

Also, if the accommodation is near the workplace, less time is needed for commuting and therefore is environmentally friendly. Also, I would have thought that a young, single person would feel less isolated in a city-centre apartment where social amenities are easily available rather than having a long and lonely commute to the outer edges of our urban sprawl. – Yours, etc,

STEPHEN GARLAND,

Terenure, Dublin 6.