Housing and a dysfunctional market

Sir, – It is a well-recognised feature of famines that people can starve while there is food in the shops. In making his case that the supply of housing is now adequate, John McCartney appears to be making the same mistake of confusing "demand" with "need" (Opinion & Analysis, July 17th). While it may be true that we are reaching the point where there enough homes for the small number of people who can afford their excessive cost, there are many tens of thousands of people who desperately need homes. The evidence for this is all around us, not just in the over 10,000 people in emergency homeless accommodation but also recent Focus Ireland research which shows the extraordinary efforts that they make to find a new home. The number of people attending every viewing for rented houses might also make Mr McCartney reconsider his view that "supply is catching up with demand". As might the recently published fact that so many of people are forced to pay high rents for premises that don't meet the minimum housing standard. Mr McCartney believes that an annual increase of 8.5 per cent in rents is evidence of the "disappearance of inflationary pressure", because it is slightly lower than last year, even though it remains eight times the inflation rate and more than double the legal maximum.

All this evidence makes it clear that our supply of affordable housing is nowhere near the needs of our people. Many tens of thousands of people have no reason to be “thankful” for the slowdown in building supply, which will condemn them to further years of misery.

Mr McCartney is probably right about the way economic forces in the housing market are playing out but this is further proof that we need much more ambitious Government intervention to ensure public and affordable housing is built for those whose needs will not be met by such a dysfunctional market. – Yours, etc,



Director of Advocacy,

Focus Ireland,

High Street, Dublin 8.