Irish Examiner view: Weak reaction on housing crisis raises stakes

Our political class does not have a real understanding of what, and how much is in play
Irish Examiner view: Weak reaction on housing crisis raises stakes

In the last month, investment funds outbid affordable housing agencies on more than 400 homes by offering up to €80,000 more per unit.

Whether anger with an underwhelming, ineffective Government response to an escalating crisis is always proportionate is questionable. It is possible that we overestimate governments’ capacity to restore the equilibrium that sustains successful societies. However, that caveat has a shelf life.

Repeated failures, institutionalised refusal to recognise that faith has been routinely, and for far, far too long, misplaced in dysfunctional systems can only exacerbate fraught situations. The major issues facing this society can be so defined. Health, especially unequal access, an equitable response to climate collapse, postcode-lottery broadband, and, most of all, the contrived housing crisis persist because administrations tweak where they should remake.

There is a line often used in the great tradition of Jewish storytelling. It is a mixture of stoicism, resignation, and enduring optimism made necessary by history’s outrages. “Next year, in Jerusalem ...” is often one of that tradition’s foils to a difficult situation that need not have been so difficult had higher ideals prevailed. It looks ahead in a way that marks a sliver of defiance. Almost half a century after it was published, any reference to the 1973 Kenny report that proposed ways to control the price of building land, seems an Irish version of that Jerusalem sigh. It suggests that though a solution, at least a partial one, has been identified its moment has not yet arrived. Principle, at least a misplaced kind, prevents progress.

Sunday Business PostThough Ireland is very different today from the less affluent, more deferential 1973 version, the problems around housing are essentially the same, even if amplified by newfound affluence. That affluence has turned our housing market into a honey pot for international investors but a bitter-sweet reality for a far, far too many of the cohort needed to support civil society. The

reported yesterday that in the last month investment funds outbid affordable housing agencies on more than 400 homes by offering up to €80,000 more per unit. This came as Government tweaks and twists to control institutional funds’ impact in housing. The coalition is under intense pressure to ensure that these funds — neocolonialists — cannot buy housing estates to rent the houses to those who might have hoped to buy one.

The conservative voices in power, the heirs to those who ensured the Kenny Report stays on the dusty shelf where all upset-the-apple-cart reports go, may point to Britain’s election as a reminder of why change is unnecessary. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, despite scandal after scandal, were more than successful. So successful that those millions who abhor Tory cuts to social support services may have to, again, intone the “next year, in Jerusalem” deflection. 

Were we to do that it would not only be a betrayal of those trying to buy a home but also a betrayal of those who did so much in the early years of this state to ensure their children would not, as their grandparents might have been, be rent providers for life for one entity or another. That our response is even in question suggests, alarmingly, that our political class does not have a real understanding of what, and how much is in play.

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