The lack of construction workers is going to delay any resolution to the housing crisis a leading economist has warned.
Professor Alan Ahearne told RTÉ Radio’sthat it is going to take “a long time” to solve the problem.
He warned it was important that the Government “not do silly things in the meantime. At the end of the day we need more housing supply, but we just don’t have the workers.”
Prof Ahearne suggested that it is time to look at bringing in workers from abroad, but did not think it feasible for “armies of construction workers” to arrive in Ireland “setting up camps” because there are not enough houses in which they could live, or afford to rent.
The important thing was to do no harm. “Don’t make things worse,” he urged.
Including institutional landlords in rent pressure zones would not necessarily help the situation, he said as new premises coming on stream were being rented at high prices because the landlords knew that they could not increase the rents in the future.
The biggest constraint facing the Government is the lack of supply, which means that more homes need to be built, but this is difficult because the construction industry as been “maxed out”.
He asked how the Government is going to “ramp up” efforts at building more social housing when there are not enough workers to build. In 2006-2007 a total of 90,000 houses were built, he said, that would not be possible now as Eastern European workers were now working elsewhere and there are not enough trained construction workers coming through the system, he said.
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy told RTÉ that extending the rent pressure zones until 2021 to include institutional landlords will mean a new level of protection for tenants.
We know there is more work to do, but there has been some progress. Last year there was a 25% increase in the number of houses built and there will be an increase again this year.
He called for more apartments to be built in other cities “to take the pressure off Dublin.”
The CEO the national housing charity Threshold, John Mark McCafferty, called on the Government to consider all the options to provide more affordable housing. Other cities have more affordable systems such as Vienna where the housing model is based on ability to pay.
Greater enforcement and stronger sanctions need to be implemented to ensure landlords adhere to rent pressure zone regulations.
He also called for a review of the HAP system, pointing out it has not been changed since 2016.
There needs to be a change in the way social housing is delivered, he said. “If the Government is really serious then they need to look at a very radical way. Ramping up supply is required in the meantime.”