In Peter McVerry Trust’s presentation to the Committee on Housing and Homelessness in May we stressed that Ireland has a housing system not just a housing market. This may seem like semantics, however it’s not.
Peter McVerry Trust made a particular effort to stress this point. We wanted to ensure that the members and those reporting on the Committee’s work would recognise that housing is not just a commodity built for profit but a right to be facilitated for the public and, if need be, delivered by the State.
Commonly, commentary on housing in Ireland refers almost exclusively, to the housing market. In many respects that gives us an indication into the commentator’s views of what housing is: a commodity rather than a right. Even if it is not an accurate representation of the writer or spokesperson’s views it displays how we have come to consider housing as something which is delivered by the market for all sectors of society. Home ownership is delivered by the market, rental properties are delivered by the market, social housing is built and sold by the market with profits in-built. Of course, just because that is what we have allowed to become the norm it does not mean that is how it should continue to be.
If Irish society, the Government, legislators and policy makers recognised that we have a broad, interconnected and complex housing system, rather than a narrow profit driven housing market our approach to addressing the housing and homeless emergency would fundamentally change. In the upcoming Housing Action Plan the Government is faced with making a series of policy choices, those choices are based on the Government’s views on what housing is and who is responsible for delivering it.
The recognition that housing is part of a wide system would result in the fundamental rebalancing of housing provision. It would necessitate large scale public housing programmes of housing provision and would potentially see compulsory procurement of empty private dwellings, which the Housing Agency believes could give at least 2 years of housing supply. It would see public housing bodies build mixed tenure housing communities, integrating households from various income levels and none.
It would lead to the private rental market being replaced with a rental system that encompassed large volumes of cost rental units provided by public and approved housing bodies. The cost rental system would help transition Ireland towards a unitary rental model, common and highly effective across Europe in mature rental systems. Cost rental is essential if we are to really offer long term renting as an affordable and practical alternative to home ownership.
Fundamentally, recognition of the existence of a housing system in policy measures and, in the new Housing Action plan would to the abandonment of the failed overreliance on the market to deliver housing, replaced with finance and physical delivery of housing provision by the State. It would significantly lessen the chance of another housing boom bust cycle and create a more balanced approach to housing provision, enabling all sectors of society to secure housing appropriate to their needs.
Date 12th July 2016
Peter McVerry Trust blog postings are short insights and comment pieces and do not necessarily reflect the full indepth position of the organisation. If you’d like to discuss a post or point raised please contact us. For an updated position on the issues raised in the post please contact our Communications Department on 01 823 0776.