Lessons must be learned to deal with Ireland’s rental crisis

Trying to rebuild the Irish housing market post-crash, by relying on the private sector to provide accommodation as before is akin to not learning the lessons of the two recent Boeing 737 Max airplane crashes, not adapting accordingly, and repeating the mistakes and shortcomings all over again.

So says seasoned Irish chartered surveyor and top property adviser Frank P Ryan, in a just-published book Lessons in Irish Housing, in which he asserts: “We don’t have a housing crisis, we have a rental/apartment crisis.”

With 40 years’ Irish and international property market experience, and two recently completed master’s degrees in housing policy and in the history of the Irish house, Mr Ryan notably argues against a market-based approach only to providing homes, particularly in relation to land value and zoning “as it works against the need for a balanced housing objective” based on rational, long term needs, rather than on short-term, ad hoc emotional responses.

Planning should be policy led, as in Holland and not market led as it is here, Mr Ryan argues and picking up on the thrust of the 1973 Kenny Report he also calls for a new approach to land zoning, and sale, with land value based on future use and land sellers becoming preferential shareholders in the development and housing process, connected to housing objective rather than an “aloof, or rogue variable of the housing system” and driven by value alone.

In broad terms, the country needs an output of 42,000 units a year, of which 50% of residential accommodation should be built for rentals, both private and social, and 50% for the private sale market, with more than 50% rental applying especially in urban areas.

There’s still on-going chaos and inertia resulting from the housing crash 2008-2013, and a solution will have to come from constructing social housing of scale and “moulding policy to create viability for new private rental supply at both average and affordable rental,” Mr Ryan reasons.

Among the elements contributing to the housing/rental crisis were the selling of of local authority houses in the 1980s and 1990s, the near-total reliance on the private market to deliver stock, and “flawed, high-risk policies over a 20-year period”.

By the end of 2018, house delivery was stilly only running at 50% of total need and new supply was “corralled in houses in suburban locations, for the sales market” with a need to “calm the exaggerated consumer aspirations towards ownership... and to treat all housing sectors as complementary ‘pillars’ to a single housing objective.”

“Regardless of the economic benefits of new suburban houses for sale, it is only a marginal contribution to a housing solution that is primarily of urban, rental and apartment need in character,” strongly argues Frank Ryan.

Ireland’s housing systems “lack knowledge, innovation and effective leadership”, he charges, adding that “using a flawed or out-of-date housing system is a very inefficient manner to address a modern housing crisis.”

Lessons in Irish Housing by Frank P Ryan is published by Oak Tree Press, Cork, in print and ebook formats, and is available from www.successstore.com and from bookshops.

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