John Moran, who left the department in 2014, also said soulless housing estates are contributing to loneliness.
“We want better for our children and for our grandchildren. We are not giving this island to our grandkids as their inheritance, we are borrowing it from them for the moment to do a good job and, by God, we have done a bad job up to now.
“We cannot continue to screw it up for them by ignoring what we are doing to their environment, what we are doing to create new divisions and inequalities on their island,” said Mr Moran, speaking yesterday at the Sunday Business Post’s Residential Property Summit in Dublin.
The former high-ranking official started his address by saying it was “probably about the most political speech” he would make.
Speaking specifically on housing, he said policymakers need to take a holistic view in order to tackle the crisis — including transport, climate and mental health in the equation, and move beyond our “love affair” with the Brady Bunch suburb.
“We need to dramatically change the way we look at an ideal house in Ireland. We have had a love affair with a US suburban model that has been sold to us since many of us in this room started watching the Brady Bunch and it is time to stop,” he said.
“We are building up a major problem with loneliness, loneliness which is eating away at our mental well-being and it’s not just about being alone. People are lonely in badly-designed houses in towns and cities.
“They feel lonely wandering the streets. They feel lonely in our soulless housing estates that we’ve built with no facilities unless you have a car to drive to the local shopping centre. They feel lonely now in rural Ireland too as the kids have left and they grow old, too old sometimes to drive to their nearest neighbour.”
He said longer commute times from affordable homes to jobs in the capital and “ever-increasing” rents were unacceptable.
Mr Moran also said that all sectors of the economy need to pay their fair shares of taxes in order to finance the country’s needs.
“I just hope the loss of the Rugby World Cup bid, the loss of medicines and bankings authorities (European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency) has been a wake-up call to us all. That second is just not good enough.
“This will take real investment. It will take all sectors of our economy paying their fair share of taxes in order to finance the investment we need,” he said.
Also speaking at the summit was Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, who said: “I’m not sure if we have ever had a properly functioning housing system. I’m not sure if we know yet what that might look like.”
He spoke about solutions to the housing crisis that the Government is currently working on, where 7,900 new social housing units will be delivered next year.
“We continue to ramp up our social housing delivery, real sustainable homes for people in homelessness and on our housing lists.
“Next year, about one-third of our social housing solutions will be homes built, owned or leased by the State. That’s about 7,900 new homes for individuals and families,” he said.
Commenting specifically on the private rental market and so-called rogue landlords, Mr Murphy said more penalties were coming.
“The scenes of overcrowding recently broadcast on our TVs are unacceptable and much harsher penalties are coming for these criminals, together with more inspections and a more robust inspection regime,” he said.