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19 European policy options that could boost affordability of Irish housing – paper by Housing Europe for Barry Andrews MEP

MEP Barry Andrews today published a commissioned research paper looking at Ireland’s housing market from a European perspective.


The paper, entitled ‘Delivering on Housing in Ireland: A European Policy Perspective’, identifies 11 problems facing the Irish housing sector which are currently barriers to progress, and outlines what Ireland’s neighbours in Europe (both EU and non-EU) have done to tackle similar issues.


Although housing is not an exclusive competence of the European Union, the EU remains relevant from a regulatory and fiscal perspective, as well as being a considerable provider of finance. Moreover, housing ranks in the top two policy areas where Irish citizens would like to see more of a role for the EU.



The paper finds that other Member States have better leveraged their membership of the EU to facilitate investment in housing, through securing access to financing, or designing workarounds for EU rules on public expenditure.


MEP Andrews said, “Although action at EU level is no silver bullet, and some of the issues with our housing sector are specific to Ireland, it’s clear that there is a need for a more concerted EU strategy by the Irish Government(?) to ensure that we possess the right regulatory and fiscal environment for investing in housing”.


Over the past year alone, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition has imposed delays on the roll-out of the Government’s Croí Cónaithe scheme, as well as legislation to regulate short-term rentals. In addition, the EU’s stringent rules on public debt and deficit have led to an over-reliance on the private sector for delivering Ireland’s housing targets.

The paper highlights that since 2018, spending by Approved Housing Bodies counts as public expenditure under EU fiscal rules. In peer countries referred to in the report, AHBs are off balance sheet and almost completely self-financing.


Andrews added, “As interest rates rise, and returns on investment are less attractive, relying on the private sector to deliver our housing targets may not be sustainable. Ireland needs workarounds to EU fiscal rules to facilitate public investment, akin to France’s ‘Livret A’ system. We should be pushing for a modification to these rules at EU level in addition to state-aid exemptions for crises. This would benefit citizens all across EU who cannot fulfil their housing needs”.


According to the paper, one of the core issues inhibiting progress on housing delivery in Ireland is a lack of diversity of funding to provide social and affordable housing. “Other Member States

are more ambitious when it comes to obtaining EU funding, such as Horizon Europe. We need to ensure that any funding we do receive is leveraged in the best way possible”.


“Lastly, we need to work more closely with other EU Member States to tackle common issues, such as interest rates, inflation and labour market shortage, which impact housing all across the EU. The EU is also an unrivalled forum for cooperation and best-practice sharing. As this paper makes clear, we have a lot to learn from our neighbours”.




19 Policy options

1. Establish housing co-operatives with State guarantees similar to the Swedish Cooperative Associations leading to cost-purchase homes.

2. Price controlled housing for purchase similar to Helsinki’s Hitas system based on long term public leasing of land.

3. Take advantage of excess savings by setting up a Sustainable Development Bank capitalised by savers’ deposits and using funds as an off-balance sheet investment in social and affordable housing. Based on French Livret A Account.

4. Reverse the decision in 1987 to prohibit local authorities from being able to borrow funds, modelled on the Finnish Municipal Bank and Municipal Housing Companies.

5. Establish a Guarantee Fund for Social Housing based on the Dutch model which would help the roll-out of cost-rental schemes.

6. Hold Land Development Competitions for development of publicly-owned land based on Viennese Housing Fund.

7. Limit the Tenant Purchase Scheme to replenish social housing stock and encourage investment in social housing, based on decision of Welsh and Scottish Governments to abolish the right-to-buy.

8. Develop Right of Occupancy Housing based on the Finnish model where tenants must take a 15% equity stake.

9. Improve the quality of data gathered by CSO on housing based on the English Housing Survey.

10. Increase the tax rate of the Residential Zoned Land Tax based on the French Tax on Undeveloped Land.

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