Wednesday 12 December 2018

John O'Connor: 'Home is where the heart is - if we can afford to live there'

Stock photo: PA
Stock photo: PA

John O'Connor

Every day we read stories about housing issues. Stories about the supply of housing, the affordability of housing, the availability of land or about long commutes. But we rarely stop to ask people what they think about their own housing situation.

To answer this question, the Housing Agency surveyed 1,400 homeowners and renters across Ireland to measure satisfaction levels and to understand what sort of housing people aspire to. The results showed experience often depends on geography, and whether you own your home or rent.

Satisfaction with one's home plays a central role in happiness over the course of people's lives. Measuring residential satisfaction is complicated, and has to take account of factors such as the house itself, but also the neighbourhood and whether your house suits your stage in life.

Naturally, affordability has an important impact on housing satisfaction. The findings of this survey confirmed reports of the affordability challenges facing many people in Ireland.

Some expected differences emerge when looking at mortgage affordability across regions. Most notably, just over half of those living in Dublin have 'some difficulty' with their mortgage each month - reflecting higher house prices - compared to just over a quarter in the rest of the country.

Among the main issues that people report is a shortage of space. One in five say this is an issue. But another 16pc find it difficult to cover the costs of maintaining their homes, while the same percentage complain it is difficult to keep their homes warm.

Again, it is renters who are more likely than homeowners to experience these issues.

On the whole, people are happy with their neighbourhoods. Almost nine out of 10 people say they would like to stay living in their neighbourhood long-term, and an even larger percentage would recommend their neighbourhood to a friend.

While the research is still being analysed, some conclusions can be drawn. Most people are clearly happy in their homes, reflecting improvements in the quality of the built environment in recent years. They are also happy with their neighbourhoods.

However, the key concern emerging from the data analysed so far is the issue of affordability and the high number of people, especially renters, experiencing difficulties meeting their monthly housing costs.

To address that, we need to continue to focus on meeting the housing supply needed both for renting and home ownership. And, most importantly, to continue to introduce measures to address affordability.

John O'Connor is chief executive of the Housing Agency

Irish Independent

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