On housing

published 25 Jun 2013
Fernando Stankuns (flickr)

I've just published an article that I wrote about housing policy in Ireland in 1998.

In the second half of the 1990s, Ireland saw the start of a property boom that continued until 2007, when it collapsed in spectacular fashion leaving the economy in a spiraling depression where it remains today. During the late 1990s, there was a great shortage of apartments in Dublin, leading to big rent increases. This article was a critique of the state's private-investor-led housing strategy.

It's not a very good article. It's too obviously propaganda. It uses too many scaling adjectives. It focuses mainly on implications for marginal fractions of society. Many of the arguments are generic lefty points. But, despite it not being a very good article, history has treated it more kindly than it did most contemporary writing on housing policy in Ireland. It may be moaning, but the moans generally came true in the ensuing property boom and bust. The inevitable down-turn did, in fact, come. The state has, in fact, been burdened with responsibility for many speculative, unplanned and low-quality developments. Housing costs have increased as a proportion of income. And "business" links between developers and politicians did, in fact, mean that there was no political response to the obviously inflating bubble.

These predictions aren't, however, very impressive. I don't know that much about housing policy and I knew less when I wrote this article. The predictions are mostly just derived from the general left wing criticism of unplanned, private sector, speculative development. Furthermore, in 1998, it was not all that difficult to see that Ireland's housing model was bringing it on a dangerous trajectory. The developments were built so quickly and to such a low standard that some are already being demolished. Plowing lots of labour into poor quality, poorly-planned construction is never going to turn out well in the long run, no matter how it might affect short-term GDP figures.

I'm going to publish the next installment of my theoretical article on models on Friday.  Next week I'll be back to the personal narrative.