Thursday 18 October 2018

Housing crisis: Ireland lacks experts to guide policy - but we aren't training any

  • Leading housing expert calls for courses in housing policy to be made available at third level
  • Independent.ie reveals distinct lack of expertise in housing policy compared to our neighbours in Northern Ireland
  • Number of people with accredited housing policy expertise just a fraction of the number registered in Northern Ireland
STOCK IMAGE
STOCK IMAGE

Sean Nolan

A housing expert has called for third-level colleges to offer more courses on the subject to combat the lack of expertise in the country.

The CEO of Irish Council of Social Housing (ICSH) Dr Donal McManus, spoke as Independent.ie reveals a distinct lack of experts in the area as the country battles an ongoing housing crisis.

The number of people in Ireland with accredited housing policy expertise is just a fraction of the number registered in Northern Ireland.

Figures released by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) to Independent.ie reveal that they have just 145 members in the Republic of Ireland, with only 16 at the Chartered level.

In Northern Ireland, the CIH has 411 members, 113 of which are chartered members.

In total, 130 people have been awarded CIH qualifications in the Republic of Ireland while the number of qualifications attained in Northern Ireland is around 450.

Justin Cartwright, Policy and Public Affairs manager for CIH in Northern Ireland revealed the figures to Independent.ie explaining that to achieve the Chartered level people had to attain a Level 5 Diploma in Housing, the professional level of housing policy expertise, or through years of experience in the field.

Dr Donal McManus outlined the reasons behind the lack of expertise in the Republic of Ireland.

He told Independent.ie that local authority career paths were fluid with people often starting out in an area like housing, before moving into planning or water or to another sector.

Dr McManus added that another major issue for the industry was the absence of any third-level degree courses on the island of Ireland in housing management and policy.

Magee College in Derry did offer a Housing Management degree but it was dropped in 2016 after cuts to budgets, leaving nowhere in the 32 counties to educate the next generation of housing management professionals.

"We would urge third-level institutions in Ireland that have related programmes, in surveying, in planning, in environmental management, to expand those into a housing policy or housing management degree," Dr McManus said.

"There has always been a need for housing expertise, and there always will be a need in housing expertise.

"The sector has gotten more complex over the years and is now a multi-disciplined area.

"It now requires social skills, financial skills and management skills to do the job effectively. Better training, and encouraging more young people to join the sector at a young age, is vital to ensure housing management and policy in Ireland continues to improve."

Read more: Revealed: Where house price growth is highest and lowest as the average deposit for Dublin home tops €50k

Dr McManus suggests that like other types of professions, and similar to what Magee College used to offer, a four-year course with a year of on-the-job experience in a placement programme would be ideal to train up a new cohort of housing experts in Ireland.

"As we have seen in ICSH, housing management is a growing sector. We have gone from 8,000 people working in the sector to 32,000. You always need to retrain and upskill existing staff, and CIH courses are excellent for that, but we need to bring in skilled new entrants as well."

Meanwhile, Mr Cartwright, speaking about the differences between the North and the Republic, noted that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive was created in 1971 and manages 86,500 dwellings.

In the Republic, 520 housing bodies exist in various sizes and level of services, managing a stock of over 30,000 units.

The CIH, a not-for-profit organisation, began life in the UK when 'The Association of Women Housing Workers' was founded in 1916 and it became the Society of Housing Managers in 1948. Following a merger with the Institute of Housing in 1965 it took that name in 1974 before adding 'Chartered' after getting a royal charter in 1984.

That long history in the UK means that housing professionals in the UK have traditionally been members of CIH but they only began to take on members in the Republic of Ireland in 2008, before establishing an office in the Housing Agency in Dublin in 2014.

That partly explains the low uptake of the training, but Mr Cartwright said he would encourage housing bodies across Ireland to take part in their training courses to grow the expertise base in Ireland as a matter of urgency to address the housing crisis here.

The Irish Council of Social Housing (ICSH), an umbrella group for more than 300 Approved Housing Bodies (AHB), has worked with CIH to run courses to improve expertise levels in the sector.

Information and Communications Coordinator for ICSH, Ken Reid, said the levels were lower in the Republic than the south partly for historical reasons and partly because many people who work in housing in the Republic came into the industry from community or social backgrounds, whereas in the UK the industry has been professionalised for some time.

Dublin City Council, who manage 25,353 units according to their most recent figures, failed to respond to queries regarding how many members of their staff had taken courses with the CIH.

Housing Agency also failed to respond to a similar query.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News