In a surprise turn of events, avowed liberal and senior Minister Darragh O’Brien, the TD for Fingal and Minister for Housing, is “under fire” for supposedly blaming migrants for their contribution to the housing crisis. ‘Fingal Communities Against Racism’, a Facebook page moderated by a Social Democrat from Donabate and whose only public face is the Lucy Michaels of Burkean ‘Antifa’ fame, was initially a pro-Abortion campaign group but which has morphed into a private vehicle to dox and harass those they call ‘far-right’ can now apparently use its position in ‘polite society’ to browbeat Ministers on national policy.
I am no fan of Darragh O’Brien, his time as a TD and backbencher was one predicated on opportunism and having made his fortune working in finance capitalism, O’Brien is not the Messiah, come to bring common sense back to the national arena. Nay, O’Brien has gone so far as to previously denounce Irish nationalism’s central tenets, calling racist the Pearsian quote that ‘from the centre to the zenith, Ireland belongs to the Irish.’ He is no friend of an Irish nationalist.
That aside, O’Brien is correct in placing at least some of the blame on the housing crisis on foreign migrants – though his failure to place the rest of the blame on the foreign ‘investment funds’ which his Government has courted is reproachable.
House prices are a simple game of numbers and if the policies of the rest of any other European countries are a measure by which we can guesstimate the future here then no matter how much supply is stepped up, it will never match the torrential flow of foreigners coming into the country.
Germany, which introduced rent controls in Berlin, and Austria, which imposed similar in Vienna, have not seen an abatement of house prices – indeed, with continued mass migration property and rental prices have continued to rise, even as supply has increased.
The natural growth rate in those seeking accommodation (those looking to leave the family home having become adults) in the country is in the region of about twenty thousand a year – housing construction is on target to provide about twenty-five thousand this year, having missed every other deadline before it.
This goes some way in reducing the built-up backlog of demand – or at least it would, were it not for the fact there are tens of thousands of migrants entering the State every year. Contrary to the idea that these people are somehow increasing the capacity of the State, they are, if anything, making long-term policy impossible to navigate. Even in the year ending April 2021 during the midst of the pandemic when half the country was shuttered for a full year beforehand, there were net flows of migration into Ireland of 11,000 (granted this year was the exception to previous years – the majority of those who entered the State were Irish – usually the Irish are the minority). The year before and this figure was nearly 30,000 (and net-Irish figures amounted to a paltry 500). The year before again, and it was over 30,000 (with more Irish leaving than returning).
The most pessimistic projections would imply a doubling of that figure coming into the country this year – as at least 25,000 Ukrainians have already entered the country alone in the last three months. Even should that figure halt overnight, continued migration flows would be expected to return to normal, meaning between 20,000 and 30,000 additional migrants alongside those already here.
It is a simple and unfortunate fact of life that migrants coming here will need to be housed and that there are only so many houses that can be built or otherwise brought onto the market. Far from invigorating the economy, foreigners are making it unlivable for the rest of the country. This is of course not their intention, but it is an inevitable result of continued high levels of inward migration.
Mr. O’Brien is right to place at least some of the blame on migrants for pushing the rental and housing market outside the reach of many – we would encourage the Minister to offer solutions. Should he have none, we would proffer ours to Rialtas na hÉireann for free – mass repatriations for non-EU citizens, deportation of foreign criminals, and the sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.