'So bureaucratic' - Radical departure needed to tackle social housing crisis

John Walsh has said five regional authorities should take control, and have funding released to them
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.41 12 Jun 2023

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'So bureaucratic' - Radical de...

'So bureaucratic' - Radical departure needed to tackle social housing crisis

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.41 12 Jun 2023

Share this article

The red tape and bureaucracy involved in building social housing in Ireland is adding to the housing crisis instead of addressing it.

That's according to Business Post columnist John Walsh, who said the current system is simply not working.

Approved housing bodies (AHBs) are independent, not-for-profit organisations that provide affordable rented housing for people who can’t afford to rent of buy in the private sector.


He told Newstalk Breakfast this is not a criticism of current housing bodies.

"They do vitally important work, and I'm not trying to take away from that," he said.

"What I'm trying to aim at there is not what they do, but currently how they do it.

"I'm not going to win any popularity contest by telling you where I'm getting the material for this: it was from property developers who are at the coalface of this.

"These are the people who ultimately supply the end product - the housing.

"What they would say is the system as it is currently stacked up is not working.

"Instead of addressing a housing crisis, it's adding to the constraints".

'So bureaucratic'

Mr Walsh said "the meat of it" sees approved housing bodies deal with several State agencies - including The Housing Agency and Government-approved lawyers.

"The system has become so bureaucratic that the time lag between signing a contract and getting payment is up to five years - certainly with one developer I spoke to," he said.

"His argument is that this just isn't viable any longer, especially in an era of rising interest rates where the cost of funding is going up.

"Under these types of contracts, with approved housing bodies, developers don't get paid until the end - until they deliver the housing".

'De-centralised to local authorities'

Mr Walsh said there needs to be a "radical restructuring" of what's happening at the moment.

"We have 31 local authorities... I think what you need is five regional authorities," he said.

"But more importantly, and the crucial part of this, is that funding has to be de-centralised.

"The blockage in the system at the moment is that funding is centralised, and that's what's leading to such heavy bureaucracy.

"If funding was de-centralised to local authorities, give them the money every year and give them the political accountability.

"I just think that we need a radical departure from what we're doing".

P83NHF Terraced houses in Kinsale, Co Cork in June 2018. Terraced houses in Kinsale, Co Cork in June 2018. Picture by: Ognyan Yosifov / Alamy Stock Photo

Quoting a study last year by the Economic and Social Research Institute, Mr Walsh said the gap is widening.

"As it stands, 90% of people who are approach retirement age - that's the 65 group - 90% of them have their own houses.

"That offers them security in their old age.

"Whereas... only about 60% or less of people in the 35 to 44-year-old age cohort will have housing when they enter retirement.

"That trend is likely to get worse," he added.

Listen back here:

Main image: Two workers at the building of a new house in February 2014. Picture by: Cum Okolo / Alamy Stock Photo

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Constraints Economic And Social Research Institute Housing Bodies John Walsh Newstalk Breakfast Property Developers Regional Authorities Social And Affordable Housing The Housing Agency

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