Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?


on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?


In little more than a decade, the housing system in Ireland has gone from the peak phase of a property boom to a collapse of the market and dramatic falls in both housing output and prices, and now to a situation where house prices are rising, particularly in urban areas, but where we continue to see the unfolding of the consequences of the ‘boom and bust’ in Irish housing – and the failure of public policy evident in both phases.  

This issue of Working Notes draws attention to the significant problems now facing tens of thousands of households in Ireland in terms of housing access, affordability and security.

The most serious indicator of the housing crisis is the increase in homelessness, reflected in the rise in the number of people sleeping rough, and in the number of individuals, and of families with children, having to live in emergency accommodation. Peter McVerry writes: ‘Homelessness is now worse than at any time in recent memory .... Many of the ‘new homeless’ have never been homeless before, and until this current crisis would never for a moment have thought they could become homeless’. 


on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?


Peter McVerry SJ

The Housing Crisis

Homelessness is the most visible, and extreme, consequence of a dysfunctional housing system. And the housing system in Ireland today is certainly dysfunctional; indeed, it could be said to be an example of the perfect storm, with all three of the main housing sectors in crisis at the same time.

In the private housing market, demand greatly exceeds supply leading to an increase in house prices, particularly in the Dublin area, with a consequent increased demand on the private rented sector and increased pressure on the social housing sector.

The Private Rented Sector in Ireland: Time for a National Strategy

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconThe Private Rented Sector in Ireland: Time for a National Strategy

Bob Jordan


In December 2014, in a ‘Chairperson’s Statement’ introducing the 2013 Annual Report of Threshold,1 Senator Aideen Hayden, stated: ‘Threshold is calling on the Government to introduce a national strategy on private rented housing as a matter of urgency. This strategy must provide real security for individuals and families who are making their home in the rented sector – a security which is lacking today’.2 

Threshold believes that the key principle governing such a strategy is that everyone has a right to adequate housing regardless of the tenure in which they make their home.3 Such a strategy should complement and reinforce the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy and the Social Housing Strategy 2020, both announced in 2014.4

Recent Trends and Developments in the Owner-Occupier Sector in Ireland

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconRecent Trends and Developments in the Owner-Occupier Sector in Ireland

Cathal O’Connell and Joe Finnerty


This article examines the recent experiences of the owner-occupier sector in Ireland, with reference to historic trends in home-ownership, the impact of the economic crash on the housing system and the consequences that followed, and the current and pending challenges faced by the sector. Given the links between the different sectors which comprise the Irish housing system, there will be some cross-referencing to the social housing and the private rental sectors in the course of the discussion. 

Tenure Trends in Irish Housing 

A feature of the Irish housing system has been the historically high level of owner-occupation and the consequent overshadowing of other tenures (see graph below). The rate of owner-occupation rose consistently throughout most of the twentieth century, peaking in the 1980s when the sector accounted for almost 80 per cent of the total housing stock, before a gradual reduction from the 1990s onwards.  

The Private Rented Sector: the Case for Regulation

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconThe Private Rented Sector: the Case for Regulation

P. J. Drudy


In the past, those with good jobs and reasonable incomes in Ireland might have aspired to purchase a home. However, after a short few years of house price falls subsequent to the economic crash in 2008, the purchase price of houses has been escalating again, meaning that owning a home may now be impossible even for households that are relatively well-off. Therefore, they have no option but to rely on accommodation provided by private landlords. 

At the same time, the dramatic increase in the numbers on social housing waiting lists (89,872 households in 20131 ), and the significant decline in local authority and voluntary housing association provision, mean that many poorer households are now entirely dependent on the private rented sector for accommodation. To support these households, the State paid out €372.9 million in Rent Supplement to private landlords in 2013 and €339.3 million in 2014.2

Catholic Social Teaching and Housing

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconCatholic Social Teaching and Housing

Gerry O’Hanlon SJ


‘Have youse (yis) no homes to go to?’ – the traditional, plaintive cry of long-suffering publicans, trying to clear their premises after closing time, can sound somewhat hollow and ironic to many in today’s Ireland. We live at a time when housing supply does not meet demand; when, in the wake of the collapse of the property bubble, home-owners may struggle to meet mortgage repayments and many fear re-possession; where those in negative equity may find themselves unable to move from their current home even when there are pressing family or financial reasons for them to do so; where waiting lists for social housing are at an alarmingly high level, and where many are unable to access or remain in private rented accommodation because of unaffordable increases in rents in many areas.

We tend to think that law defines what crime is. This makes sense because contemporary legal codes are concerned with marking out the territory where conduct is permissible by specifying the conduct that is outlawed. Yet the earliest bodies of law – consider for example, the Torah or Hammurabi’s Code – are at least as committed to articulating the good as proscribing the bad... Read full editorial

Working Notes is a journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The journal focuses on social, economic and theological analysis of Irish society. It has been produced since 1987.