Big businesses have been considering buying up entire housing estates for their workers due to the housing crisis, the Oireachtas has heard.
Chambers Ireland today warned Senators and TDs that the housing crisis is preventing companies from expanding – with many “increasingly worried” about the State’s ability to address the issue.
The body, which represents thousands of businesses across Ireland, said the number one issue that needs to be addressed is the country’s planning system, which is failing businesses and failing society.
Chambers Ireland CEO Ian Talbot told the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment that companies can’t grow when workers have nowhere to live.
“There is an enormous scarcity of talent,” he said.
“You can’t find anyone else in the area with the same skills. You can’t afford to pay them more, but they need to increase their income if they’re going to get a mortgage and compete with that local authority.
“Those staff leave, they move to a different area or, worryingly, potentially to a different country, where they get a remote or hybrid job which pays them extra and allows them to stay close to their roots.”
He said larger companies have been considering buying up entire housing estates to address the problem.
“Already, across the country, large employers are buying up individual homes and houses so that they can ensure their employees have somewhere to stay,” he said.
“Several times in the last year we were contacted by businesses hoping to make big investments, potentially supporting hundreds of jobs, that were considering buying out entire housing estates, if that would allow them to grow their workforce.”
He said businesses are “leaving opportunities on the table” because they do not have the capacity to take on more work.
“Businesses are fit for growth, but they are constrained by the lack of talent, the lack of housing, the lack of infrastructure,” he said.
“The greatest challenge that our members face is the lack of available talent, which is being driven by affordable and appropriate housing being unavailable across most of the country.
“With a small number of exceptions, our chambers have housing as the main cause of their business’s challenges, which highlights how important it is for us to achieve the goal of sustainable cities and communities.”
Mr Talbot warned that the Irish operations of multinational companies are finding themselves unable to access internal investment due to the crisis.
“They can’t meet their existing employment targets, never mind expand their workforce,” he said.
The Chambers Ireland CEO said businesses are increasingly worried about the capacity of the State and the economy to deliver on the Government’s housing and climate plans.
“Business owner-operators can have confidence in themselves, they can have confidence in their business model, they can have confidence in their staff – but it is increasingly difficult for them to have confidence in the economic environment, which they are trying to operate their business within,” he said.
The body said an overhaul of the planning system is the “one overriding thing that is needed for confidence to be restored”.
“The planning authorities and courts need to be staffed, and staffed by people with expertise, not generalists,” he said.
“They need people with the technical capacity to make decisions that can withstand scrutiny.
“It is extremely hard for businesses to plan when the State is bad at planning.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Exporters Association, says the housing crisis is of great concern.
Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly said the Government’s “failure on housing” was now damaging the economy.