Irish Council of Trade Unions: State must provide more affordable homes

There is an urgent need for the Government to take on a greater role in the provision of affordable homes, according to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

ICTU general secretary Patricia King

Congress was responding to new figures from the Central Statistics Office’s latest Residential Property Price Index that showed a 12.7% rise in residential property prices across the State in the year to March.

This compares to a 12.5% rise in the year to February and 11.8% in the year to January. Overall, prices have now risen by 75% since their recession low point — and by over 90% in Dublin.

Congress general secretary Patricia King said that Ireland was in the midst of a very real housing emergency.

This crisis is doing untold damage to many lives and an entire generation of young workers now wonders if they will be able to afford suitable and secure accommodation,” she said.

“Clearly, a key problem is that the Government has left housing provision solely to the market and the market has failed to deliver. The National Planning Framework estimates that over half a million homes are needed over the next 20 years but Government plans to build just 33,500 new social housing units by 2021, even as official data indicates that just 780 new social housing units were built by local authorities last year.

“Recent research by the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) found that most individual wage earners would not meet the mortgage criteria for a one-bed apartment in Dublin and two workers in the middle of the wage distribution are priced out of the market for a three-bedroom semi-detached home, in the capital.

“Similarly, research by Prospectus Financial found that a Dublin worker on the average wage of €36,900 would need to save for 21 years to secure a deposit for the averaged-priced Dublin home of €325,000.”

Ms King said the Government must take a more proactive role in housing than it has done to-date, building more social, affordable and cost-rental homes, as advocated in Congress’s Charter for Housing Rights.

Housing is too important a human need to be left solely to the market,” Ms King added.

Government action on the housing crisis was also sought by Pat Davitt, chief executive of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV).

Lamenting that the €750m loan scheme for builders and developers announced in last October’s budget has not yet been delivered, he said: “It’s beyond time for talking and reporting; we need action.”

The latest CSO figures reveal that the cost of residential property is rising faster in the regions than in Dublin, with the highest increases recorded in the West.

The Residential Property Price Index for March shows that in the year to March prices outside of Dublin rose by 13.4%. This compares with a 12.1% rise for Dublin.

The West region showed the greatest price growth, with house prices up by 18%, with the border region showing the least house price growth, at 8.8%. Apartment prices in the Rest of Ireland increased by 13.4% in the year to March.

Over the same period, Dublin house prices went up 11.8%, with apartment prices 13.9% higher. The highest house price growth was in the centre of Dublin, at 14.2%. The lowest growth was in South Dublin, where house prices increased 9.6%.

Despite the price increases, house prices countrywide are still 21.6% lower than their peak in 2007.

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