3 quick fixes to solve housing crisis

In the second part of his series on addressing the housing crisis, MARTY MORAN comes up with 3 solutions - short-term prefabs, swifter building, and handing more power to tenants
3 quick fixes to solve housing crisis

The Taoiseach needs to take personal responsibility for housing, says Marty Moran

“HOUSTON, we have a problem”.

Anybody that’s ever watched the film Apollo 13 remembers those words by Jack Swigert, when his spacecraft encountered problems 180,000 miles from earth. It was the understatement of the century.

They weren’t just having a problem, their lives were at stake. As the movie detailed, they lived to tell their tale, but it took guts, determination, and some novel experimentation before they landed safely.

That famous saying has now been amended to “Ireland, we have a problem”. A housing problem - and it’s turning out to be even more difficult than Apollo 13’s.

What seems to be lacking, however, are the ingenious solutions needed to safely ‘land’ Irish citizens into appropriate homes. I speak from personal experience.

I recently received my second termination notice in this calendar year. While I harbour little ill will toward those particular people, it’s immensely frustrating. As bad as that may be, the real issue is there’s little hope of me finding any available housing.

Ireland’s housing problem is Irish made. It can be solved by Irish people.

I’ve done business in 25 countries, been in 15 others, plus have Irish and U.S citizenship. Given that background, I can provide a unique perspective on how housing issues have been handled around the world.

Let’s consider three different issues - temporary housing, the time required to build a new house, and the owner tenant relationship.

Prefab Housing Should be Part of the Solution

We are now so far behind in building permanent housing that to have any hope of catching up requires a mindset change. Rather than just concrete ‘Lego’ block construction, we need to consider ‘temporary prefab housing’ to tide us over while we wait for more permanent housing. If we don’t, we risk serious social unrest.

I worked on the start-up of the world’s largest chemical built plant in one phase. The Saudi Sadara plant was so big that it stretched 2km by 3km and consisted of enough pipe to traverse the distance from Dublin to Cork ten times.

When the project began, there was literally just sand in the desert as far as the eye could see - no workshops, no office buildings, and certainly not nearly enough housing for all the people required. For the project to commence, essential infrastructure had to be put into place - and quickly.

World-class engineering and construction companies achieved this goal by constructing a ‘temporary city’, comprising roads and pre-fabricated buildings of many different sizes and shape, based on their expertise of having executed many similar projects in the past.

They could easily build housing for Ireland. Give them 6-12 months and you’d be amazed by how many new buildings you’d see.

Why does it take so long to build a house in Ireland?

On January 30, 2010, I signed a contract to build a relatively modest, brand new house on a barren parcel of land in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Five months later, my new house was completed - a typical time-frame.

Just around the corner in Midleton, they were building new houses when I moved in six months ago. Still not done - and won’t be any time soon. Strikes me as a lack of urgency.

If houses can be built in five months elsewhere, we should demand the same world class standards in Ireland. This could dramatically increase the number of houses completed, using the same labour pool in a given time frame.

Balancing Owner/Tenant Relationship

Owners and tenants have equal power in the U.S. The only time any typical valid U.S rental agreement can be broken is if the renter doesn’t pay on time, destroys the property, or if the tenant dies. Even if the property where the tenant residing is sold, the lease simply rolls over to the new owner, all terms remaining the same until contract end date.

So, even the sale of the property won’t get the owner out of his/her obligation.

U.S tenants cannot be booted out before the contract end date if the owner decides to do some ‘improvement project’ or if Conor was suddenly moving back home. They certainly couldn’t be removed if the owner decided to ‘repurpose the property’ (wink wink) or sell it.

Once you sign a rental agreement in the States, you have to live by it. You can’t weasel out. 

Looking at Ireland’s owner tenant relationship through U.S eyes, it’s hard not to view it as a relic from the feudal era. The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 should immediately be repealed to address this. This would help reduce unnecessary ‘churn’ in the housing market. Owners and tenants need to be on an equal footing - if only for moral reasons.

Conclusion

Ireland has a serious housing problem. Everybody knows it. However, these problems are man-made, solvable, and fundamentally due to a gross lack of leadership.

Does Ireland have the determination, creativity, and ingenuity, like the Crew of Apollo 13, to solve it? Or are we just going to throw our hands up in the air and accept defeat?

Many, including major businesses, will soon be making the decision to stay or leave. Who is going to expand their business here if employees can’t find housing? Tents, anybody?

History has not been kind to nations that can’t provide the basics in life - food, security, and SHELTER.

Your choice, Ireland. I sure hope you get it right. Your future depends on it.

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