Project 2040: The fantasy numbers behind Ireland’s housing policy

If the truth be told, housing projections for Ireland make the form book for virtual racing seem reliable. What is pretty conclusive is that the estimates for new builds that form the basis of Project 2040, which is the synthesis of the National Planning Framework and National Development Plan, are way off.

The great “vision” that is supposed to be guiding where the state is going, and which barring a few quibbles here and there, is shared by the main opposition parties, is based on a forecasted population increase of somewhere in the region of “roughly a million” by 2040. Which on the basis of the population at the time the “plan” was drawn up, would mean a population of around of 5.8million.

We shall return to that, but even if that turns out to be accurate, then it would require 550,000 new housing units to be completed by that time. That would require an average annual new build of 25,000. The plan itself refers to a target of 25,000 to 2020, rising to 30/35,000 between 2021 and 2026, and a total of 112,000 social housing units by 2027.

It does not take a genius to realise that none of those targets have been met, nor are likely to be met. The number of house completions in 2018, the first year of the Great 22 Year Plan, was 18,000, with 21,241 in 2019 and less than 21,000 in 2020.

That, and rather different population projections, have led to others significantly upping the targets that need to be met if the demand for housing is to be met. In December 2020, the Economic and Social Research Institute published an estimate of between 26,000 and 33,000 new builds over the next number of years.

The difference depends on the level of net migration. This was 33,700 in the year up to April 2019. That fell to 28,900 in the following 12 months, as the Covid crisis made an impact, but will most likely increase significantly if and when restrictions ae lifted, and in the light of continued large movements of illegal immigrants into Europe this year. The ESRI estimates depend on whether there is high or low net migration.

Others, looking at the issue from the perspective of those with a direct involvement in the housing sector obviously believe that Ireland will continue to experience a high level of immigration. A report from Davy’s which we referred to in June, bases its projection on there having been an increase of 240,000 in population in the past five years. That will require 200,000 new builds over the next three years, an average of 66,600 each year.

The latest report to basically dismiss the Project 2040 forecast is one published last week by the Irish Institutional Property group. They have skin in the game of course, more of which anon, but that probably makes their predictions a bit more on the money, because money is their primary interest in housing.

It is written by Dr. Ronan Lyons an assistant Professor of Economics at Trinity College, Dublin. Unlike either the state or the ESRI, Lyons does not pussy foot around the issue of mass immigration, which he regards as a “positive.” Every 10,000 migrants require an average of 4,000 new dwellings.

So, if net migration returns to even pre Covid levels, immigration alone will add 450,000 new builds required between now and 2050. That’s of a total of 1,450,000 – an average of 50,000 new builds every year – which is close to what Lyons believes will be necessary to meet overall demand.

Another dimension to the housing market, and the reason that developers and indeed the state is looking more towards one and two bedroom dwellings is the radical change in household composition. Between the 1996 and 2016 Census, 66% of new households were one and two person households, which now constitute over 50% of all households.

Another significant statistic is that 40,000 new households are what are described as “crammers,” that is households made up of people who are not related to one another. That cohort constituted 35% of the overall increase in all households between 2011 and 2016. They are of great interest of course to buy and build to rent developers, and account for much of the dynamic including the upward pressure on rents that is evident in the housing market.

Dublin, like other European cities, is particularly impacted by the dissolution of older traditional social norms, with an estimated 360,000 one and two person households which is already responsible, according to Lyons research for a latent demand for 125,000 “multi family apartments.”

Shorn of the politically motivated platitudes and nods of the head towards “balanced regional development” favoured by all of the main parties who worship at the altar of globalised capital, Lyons report makes no pretence of the fantasy that Ireland is going to be able to control those forces in the direction of sustainable communities. Rather, he forecasts that urbanisation will rise from a current level of 64% to at least 80% over the next 50 years.

That is backed by the fact that 83% of work locations are currently located in the 20 Census districts with the highest population. Nothing in Project 2040 or the even more dystopian “vision” of the open borders multi cultural “post nationalist” left will alter that trend.

On the basis of all that. Lyons contrasts the predictions of Project 2040 starkly with what he believes will be the actual outcome based on his analysis of current and likely future demographic and economic trends. He states that demand for housing up to 2025 will require an annual build of 47,000 not 25,000. And even that is based on demand created by net migration of just 20,000 whereas if the pre Covid pattern remerges, and global trends suggest that it will, then immigration is likely to be higher than that, of at least 33,000 every year.

Project 2040 is basically more of a public relations exercise than a serious national plan. It is clear that it completely ignored some of the projections made by the Central Statistics Office in a 2013 report on Population and Labour Force Projections, 2016 – 2046. The CSO forecast a net migration of 10,000 by 2021, which is already a gross under-estimate of almost 280%, and of 30,000 between 2026 and 2046.

The CSO predicted that in a high migration/high fertility scenario that the population of the Irish state will reach 6,727,000. And bear in mind too, that given the falling native birth rate, much of any increased fertility would be among immigrant communities.

The purpose of IIP, who commissioned the report, is of course to influence policy in the direction which best suits their members who include Cairn Homes, formerly owned by George Soros, the Ronan Group whose founder was one of the stars of the financial debacle, and the state’s largest landlord Ires Reit. The thrust of the report is that housing strategy should be based around high rise one and two bed apartments, to be rented not owned. Lyons points to the fact that Ireland is way below the European average of apartment dwellings.

The fact that the formerly Soros owned Cairn is one of those pushing housing policy in line with mass immigration, complements perfectly the Soros Open Society funding of NGO “social justice” advocates of mass immigration, including the acceptance of illegal immigration from countries that are not even considered to be unsafe under international refugee criteria. These ensure more people to be housed, often at public expense, and more upward pressure on rents.

In common with other European cities, Dublin has already experienced a significant movement of Dublin born people moving to other pasts of the country, mostly to counties of east Leinster. That is increasing as more people are displaced, and as working people from Dublin move to other counties to commute for a combination of affordability and increasing discomfort in their native place.

That pattern is common across all European cities in which mass immigration and the radical changes in demographics and community have taken hold. Those changes also bring with them increased social dysfunction which is the product of social welfare dependent natives being stuck in parts of the city where there is a high proportion of immigrants, many of whom are also state dependents. It is not a healthy recipe, nor one that could not have been foreseen in the light of the experience of English and other European cities.

Meanwhile, the high rise blight continues to afflict Dublin, and rents continued to increase. Ires Reit made a profit of €27.4 million to June this year, with its rental income growing by 5.9% to €31.3 million over the previous 12 months. The average monthly rent in Dublin is currently €1,641. Interestingly, from a policy perspective, the Lyons report recommends that state land be made available to build upon, and that shared ownership and shared equity be encouraged by the state.

They are policies that on the face of it are appealing, but the fact that they are apparently favoured by institutional landlords might cause one to pause. It is also the plain truth, that unless the Irish people elect people who are not prepared to go along blindly with global forces outside of their control, that domestic housing strategy is never going to be more than moving the deck chairs around.

More than that perhaps, it requires the Irish people themselves to look at where we are headed as a community. The dominant narrative, as reflected in elections and referendums and the blithe acceptance of the most pernicious aspects of Woke anti-culture would not give rise to optimism on that score. If a people believes in nothing, then it will accept anything. And then wonder at the consequences.

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