Housing is a numbers game – and the numbers are running against the Coalition

Inside Politics: Consequences of war in Ukraine being felt as accommodation capacity for asylum seekers comes under strain

Housing is a numbers game – how many units do you need, how many units can you build – and the numbers are running against the Government.

Yesterday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that the Government missed its social housing targets last year. This morning, Jack Horgan-Jones reports that an unpublished report by the Housing Commission, which was given to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien last November, says that Ireland will need between 42,000 and 62,000 new housing units every year – at a time when the official housing targets are to build 33,000 units a year.

The research, it’s reported, is based on “plausible scenarios” for overall population size, average household size and the rate at which the current housing stock will become obsolete.

It examines scenarios where, by mid-century, the population grows to between 6.25 million and 7 million people, and average household size stays where it currently is, or shrinks to a level closer to where peer countries are – between 2.4 and two persons per household.


This is a clear and present political danger for the Coalition, because it suggests that the housing crisis is destined to get irresistibly worse. That will make it very difficult for the Coalition to face the electorate in two years (or whenever) and say: look at the progress we have made. It suggests that the present political paradigm will not change all that much.

Jack’s story, with Dáil reporting from Sarah Burns, is here.

Incidentally, if it’s speculation about the timing of the next election you’re looking for, here you are.

War in Ukraine

The biggest story in the world yesterday was that Germany had decided to send Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, clearing the way for other European countries including Finland, Spain, Poland and Norway to do the same. The United States will supply 31 M-1 Abrams tanks, while the UK has already promised to send 14 Challenger tanks. These will make a significant difference as both sides plan for Spring offensives, and could tilt the balance in favour of Ukraine, according to some military analysts.

The Kremlin greeted the news as a dangerous provocation. It is now basically a mainstream Russian propaganda point at home that the country is at war with Nato.

The consequences of the war continue to be felt here. Temporary accommodation for Ukrainian refugees is bursting at the seams. The Government has decided to prioritise refugees from that war above people seeking protection from other wars, or persecution, or oppression, be it real, imagined or exaggerated. So the message has gone out: don’t come to Ireland right now.

This morning, Jennifer Bray reports that on the first day that accommodation was unavailable at least seven men were told there was nowhere for them to go. The numbers are set to rise significantly in the coming days.

The men arrived into Ireland on Tuesday, Jennifer writes, on the day when the Government announced that the Citywest transit hub could no longer offer emergency shelter as it was at capacity. That closure is expected to last another number of days, during which time more applicants for international protection will arrive and be told there is no available accommodation. The figures apply for Tuesday, and Wednesday’s figures will be published this morning.

Speaking in the Dáil, Varadkar said that there is “no lack of compassion from the Government or the Irish people but there is a lack of capacity”.

Elsewhere, Jennifer also reports that the Ceann Comhairle has called a meeting of women TDs with the intention of setting up a cross-party taskforce to tackle the problem of threats and abuse against them.

The moves come after some of the women spoke to Jennifer about their experiences – which included finding bullet shells on their door, receiving pornographic letters, death threats and being either intimidated in their constituency office or being advised to stop holding clinics altogether. Separately, TDs could receive up to €5000 to help with the costs of installing new security systems where the gardaí deem it necessary.

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It’s a busy day in the Dáil, which begins before 9am with questions to Minister for Arts and Culture Catherine Martin, followed by rather more politically fractious questions to the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien. He’s likely to be asked about our page one story above.

Leaders’ Questions at noon, and later there are two bouts of Dáil statements on contentious issues – Ireland’s Forest Strategy and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. After a turbulent week, expect more of the same today. The House adjourns for the week at a quarter to 11am.

Just three items on the Seanad agenda – commencement matters (the Seanad equivalent of topical issues), the order of business (windbagging on any issue that comes to mind and asking the leader of the Seanad for a debate on it) and the continuing riveting debate on the move of the RTÉ symphony orchestra to the National Concert Hall. Adjournment at 8pm.

It’s a quieter day at the committees, though the highlight is the appearance of the former British prime minister Sir John Major at the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It’s a part of a programme of engagements with the architects of the agreement in advance of its 25th anniversary in April. He’ll be appearing via zoom. Elsewhere there’s plenty of action at the Public Accounts Committee, while the housing committee and the disability committee are also meeting. Details here.