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NESC publishes Report 138: Social Housing at the Crossroads

 ‘Social Housing at the Crossroads’

Ambitious action is required, if Ireland is to have a more cost-effective and stable housing system. A new report from the National Economic and Social Council argues that social housing is ‘at the crossroads’, with many people on low incomes now confronting an extremely difficult housing situation. This is evident in several ways: the number of mortgages in distress; long waiting lists for housing; rising homelessness; and rapidly rising rents, particularly in Dublin. At today’s launch, NESC Director Rory O’Donnell said ‘Despite state investment of over €2bn per annum, the Irish housing system offers little protection —for the state or for individuals— against the vagaries of housing and financial markets’

The report probes three related issues: investment and finance; rent policy; and  influences on the supply of new dwellings. It argues that ambitious action on each of these three fronts is required. 

  • First, it considers how low cost finance could be provided to fund the quantity and quality of housing we require and in such a way that it does not add to government debt;
  • Second, it examines how renting could be made more affordable and attractive and by extension how this could stabilise Ireland’s wider housing sector.  It  describes the practice of cost rental, common in many European countries, and the importance of improved regulation. It provides practical examples that show how cost rental could be applied in Ireland; and
  • Third, it argues there needs to be more direct public policy influence on housing supply and urban development.  It states that if, as Government wishes, housing provision is no longer to be developer-led, it will have to be led by some other identifiable actor or actors.  The analysis suggests the need to resume supply by local authorities or an equivalent body, such as a national housing trust.

In closing, Dr. O’Donnell said ‘the central challenge is to create an effective and interconnected combination of finance, supply and cost rental’.  He argued that ‘experience strongly suggests that these connections will not be established automatically or by providing incentives to uncoordinated private or public actors. Instead NESC  believes new institutional arrangements  are necessary to move policy in this direction’.   

This report provides an input into the Government’s forthcoming comprehensive social housing strategy, as outlined in Construction 2020. 


Note to Editors

Launch Details


The report will be launched at the Royal College of Physicians, No.6 Kildare St., Dublin 2, on Wednesday 11th June, 8.30 to 10.00 am.

Speakers will include Rory O’Donnell (NESC Director) and Council Members: Dr. Michelle Norris, Dr. Sean Healy, Tom Parlon, Seamas O’Donohoe, Sally-Anne Kinehan and Micheal Ewing.

The report was circulated to Government departments and noted by the Cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday 10th June 2014. The full report and the Executive Summary will be published on NESC Website, on June 10th 2014 at Midnight.

For further information please contact Larry O’Connell, / +353-86 6069758 / +353-1-8146331



The NESC Council is undertaking work on other aspects of housing and will report later in the year. This work builds on earlier work by the Council.  In particular, in 2004 the Council carried out a major study on housing called Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy.  The context of the 2004 report was the strong economic growth and construction boom.  The dramatic change in Irish housing from 1990 to 2004 created many anxieties. The Council suggested that these clustered into three broad concerns: the stability of the housing market, the degree of inequality in the opportunities and difficulties experienced during the housing boom and the social, environmental, economic and fiscal sustainability of the settlement patterns and neighbourhoods developed in recent decades, and especially in since the early 1990s.  A central focus of the analysis was how to achieve sufficient, affordable and good-quality housing to meet the increasing need and market demand. 

Download Documents

To download the report and executive summary, please visit the publications page


About the National Economic and Social Council (NESC)

The National Economic & Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973.  Its function is to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and negotiation of agreements between the government and the social partners.  The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.  It comprises representatives of trade unions, employer bodies, farm organisations, community and voluntary organisations, environmental organisations, key Government departments and has eight independent experts.

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