We solved a housing crisis at the time of the foundation of the State, and we can do so again, says Society President Andrew Nugent. These remarks were included in his Presidential address at the recent Annual Dinner.

Following one of the most difficult periods this country and our industry has ever witnessed, we are now entering 2016 with an increased sense of optimism and renewed energy to tackle the many challenges ahead.
During my term in office I have had the opportunity to meet with a great many of our members, Government officials, colleagues from industry bodies and the wider public. I have been struck by their energy, their enthusiasm and their ‘can do’ attitude. However, the one issue that always emerged, and which now clearly constitutes the greatest threat to our recovery, is housing. I believe it is critical that we continue to impress upon the Government and our other stakeholders, the urgent need to address the supply issue. However, the uncertainty regarding government formation is not helping the matter.

Housing issue
Around the time of the Rising, about half of the working population of Dublin lived in sub-standard and overcrowded tenement houses. By the time of the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 the situation was worse. With a population of over 300,000 people, swelled by the migration of unemployed farm workers moving to the city for work, and an estimated 60,000 people in need of housing, the first government faced a monumental logistical and financial task to provide a sufficient supply of new housing to satisfy the huge demand in our capital city.
The policy response to the housing crisis combined both public and private sector initiatives and can been seen in many of the surrounding suburbs to the city, in areas like Marino on the northside, and later, Drimnagh and Crumlin on the south side. In Galway, areas like Frenchville were rebuilt, and new schemes were constructed in Capwell and Turner’s Cross in Cork.
And yet here we are nearly 100 years later and we again have a housing crisis. The ESRI says that we will need 25,000 houses a year up to 2029. Last year, it is estimated that we built 12,500 houses. This situation cannot continue.

Our role
Clearly, development must be financially viable. Secondly, housing must be affordable for buyers and tenants. How can we as Chartered Surveyors help to ensure that this occurs?
New approaches and concepts need to be encouraged, adopted and adapted to deliver a quick but effective response. This is not the first housing crisis we have experienced, but if we want it to be the last for some time change will be required.
A solution to the housing crisis of 1916 was found and, with better resources available to us today, it is beholden on us all to find a solution to today’s housing shortage. We call on all stakeholders in the housing market – public, private and political – to work together and focus on that goal.

Resource issues
Of course our recovery will also need resources. Our industry has suffered a severe lack of investment over the past ten years, and it is essential that we now plan and build for the future, and work together to attract new entrants into our profession. I believe that there is no better career than that of a Chartered Surveyor, that offers such a wide-ranging breadth of experience, but we must work together as ambassadors to sell this story to our emigrants, our school-leavers and other professionals seeking a career challenge.

A sustainable industry
When I took up office last year, my main objective during my Presidency was to re-evaluate and re-focus on the important services that your Society can provide for all members to fulfil their professional and business goals. We took the opportunity to initiate the Strategic Review, which properly captures and reflects the wants and needs of our profession as we move into a new phase of steady growth.
The barriers that exist to continuing education and career advancement were referenced on a regular basis, and this is an area the Society will be focusing on in the months ahead. We will keep working to encourage our Government to recognise the national importance of the property and construction sectors.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past and strive to build a sustainable property and construction industry – one that is driven by the economy rather than fuelling it.

 

Andrew Nugent, President SCSI.

Andrew Nugent
President
Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland