Paul Umfreville, who is currently completing the third year of a doctorate in property research, was speaking at the launch of the Property Industry Excellence Awards.
“This isn’t a new concept,” Mr Umfreville said. “The literature highlights, from the census data and reports of inquiry, that the housing system over the past 100 years has had periodic episodes of crisis.
“Some of these historic responses provided transformational policy change, focusing on the causes,” he said, pointing to affordability, availability, and sanitary conditions.
Successful responses included State support for the private sector to increase public housing, as well as private housing, he said.
His work is one of a number of doctorates being funded by proceeds from the awards and by industry players like Cosgrave Developments, Hibernia, ILIM and Linesight.
Mr Umfreville pointed out that the current Government does not appear to be learning from previous policy responses.
He said that each past crisis follows the same pattern.
“There’s an emergence of crisis, whether it’s tenements collapsing in the 60s or a report or a census highlighting unfit buildings. There’s recognition of the problem by politicians,” he added.
“There seems to be a year or two or three after where industry experts say there is a problem and then at some point along the process, there’s a proposal of a policy solution.”
Mr Umfreville said the common denominator across all crises is “precarious finances”, which are used as a reason of constraining public policy.
“In times of boom, there’s more social housing, public housing [being built],” he said. “In times of recession, there seems to be less so it’s against what you would expect or hope for.”
Public opinion may be waning as a driver of government action, he believes.
“I think the public opinion is very important in the historical cases, possibly less so in the current cases,” he said.
The 2023 Property Industry Excellence Awards, supported by the Irish Independent, are now open for entries and this year include a number of new categories.