Irish Examiner view: Ireland needs action on housing now

Direct and decisive Government action to address the chronic lack of housing supply would be rewarded at the ballot boxes
Irish Examiner view: Ireland needs action on housing now

The existing lack of supply is an obvious contributing factor to high house prices that will remain a factor into the future.

The latest report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) appears to have something in it to upset everyone, or at least something to upset significant swathes of the population.

The report suggests house prices in the country are overvalued by at least 7%, which is bad news for those seeking to get on the property ladder. For those renting, the news is no better — although the ESRI envisages house prices moderating, it foresees no downward trends in rents.

Homeowners may focus on references to the likelihood of a fall in house price growth — but the ESRI hedges its bets magnificently on the most basic question of all, stating it is still unclear if we are likely to see falls in annual house prices at this stage.

The ESRI also identifies household savings built up during the pandemic as the main driver of the recent surge in house prices, adding the effect of those savings is now fading in the market.

None of this helps to address one of the most pressing challenges of modern Irish life, the housing shortage which is casting a shadow everywhere. 

The existing lack of supply is an obvious contributing factor to high house prices and, unlike the pandemic savings nest eggs, that will remain a factor into the future.

The problem raises a basic question: Should the Government intervene directly and decisively?

The housing market is such a delicately-poised ecosystem that the possibility of intervention has to be weighed with extreme care. 

Even as the ESRI report was being digested, news filtered through of the Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors calling for consumers to be given eight weeks to complete mortgage drawdowns (to avail of lower rates) while plans for a housing development of 300 units in Cork faces strong local opposition.

There are so many moving parts that it can be difficult to hold the entire housing equation in view, even for those in power. But, being in power, by definition, means making difficult choices.

Voters, particularly among younger generations aspiring to own a home, will reward action at the ballot boxes.

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