There is no doubt that housing is now a central – possibly the central – issue in Irish politics. The latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll underlines this and a couple of key statistics are striking. For example 39 per cent of respondents under 35 in Dublin and 29 per cent countrywide say they are trying to buy their first home but cannot afford it.
It adds to other evidence of an extraordinary number of frustrated young people, many forced to remain living at home or in expensive rental properties. Of those finding it impossible to buy, half said the key problem was not being able to afford the deposit. In most cases this is likely to be because they are paying out a high rent each month. It has become a vicious circle.
More supply is central to the solution, both in the rental market and in terms of available properties. The housing market is deeply dysfunctional and one outcome is a lack of homes coming on the market. And building new houses takes time, in part because of the duration of the Irish planning process.
New housing supply is essential across all areas of the market
There are some interesting poll findings in this area, with around two-thirds of people saying they would be happy to see a significant amount of new private housing in their area and just slightly less saying the same in relation to social housing. Perhaps attitudes to new developments will start to change but, unfortunately, objections and lengthy hold-ups remain all too common.
The local community has a right to have a say, but cannot have a veto on all development. And a key problem is the inordinate length of time it takes to get through the planning process and sometimes associated judicial reviews.
New housing supply is essential across all areas of the market – public and private. The Government parties face the job of persuading the electorate that they can accelerate the existing level of provision as we emerge from the pandemic. The Opposition parties, notably Sinn Féin, must convince voters that they can deliver on their promises of vastly increased supply. On this will turn many votes in the next general election.