Want to start the process?

Let us guide you through the mortgage process

Schedule a free consulation at info@dowlingfinancial.ie, or fill our the form and we will follow up with you shortly.

Tell us about yourself

By filling in the form, you agree to our Privacy Policy, including our cookie use.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Housing crisis: What the rest of the world can teach Ireland

High-densities, smart rental systems and container living – just some of the ideas we could adopt


Vienna, Austria

Among the most discussed ways of improving outcomes for renters is the so-called “Vienna model”. Roughly based on a type of tenancy popular in the Austrian capital, the model is based on what is called “cost rental”.

In a cost rental model, the rent paid by a tenant is based on the cost of supplying the building and covering ongoing cost, rather than including a profit margin. Those who cannot afford such a rent level are often given housing subsidies to live in the development.

Under a cost rental model, the buildings are constructed by housing associations, often with support from state-backed or brokered low-cost loans, which reduce the cost of financing the development, leading to more affordable rents. As servicing the debt gets cheaper, ultimately resulting in the loan being paid back, equity generated in the project can be used to build more developments.

Under the Austrian system, tenants can also acquire rights, and some schemes allow tenants to purchase their apartments outright if they have the means. The housing association then recycles the funding into other schemes.

Ireland is beginning to experiment with cost rental – a 155-unit development by Respond and Tuath housing associations, with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the Housing Agency, will have some 50 two-bedroom cost rental homes.

However, some Opposition TDs, including Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin, have queried whether the rent to be charged – €1,200 per month – is affordable. He has suggested that a truly affordable level of rent for a household whose income is between €40,000 and €70,000 would be between €700 and €900 per month.

The other wrinkle in cost rental is simply the amount of time it takes to become effective and self-perpetuating. Housing associations become more effective as the loan finance is paid down, which takes at least a decade. Meanwhile, the planning process and development timelines mean it will be two years or more before a scheme signed off on today comes on stream.

As Rosalind Carroll of the Residential Tenancies Board points out, other countries started working on concepts like this after the second World War. “We have a period where we have to catch up now”.


UK, California, Germany

It is 20 years since Irish economist Colm McCarthy observed in this newspaper that there are “an awful lot of green blobs” on the map of Dublin. McCarthy suggested that some of the capital’s parks and green zones be used for residential development in a city that was then, as now, wailing for accommodation.

When he suggested building on the 240-acre St Anne’s Park in Raheny, one reader wrote a letter wondering if McCarthy’s intervention was an April Fool’s joke. But was the wider idea really such a crazy one?

Just over two years ago, similar sentiments were put forward by Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, who pointed out that 26 per cent of the capital’s land is zoned for open space, green buffers where building is prohibited. Some of these were underused and offered little amenity value, he said. Better to build homes on parts of them and upgrade the remainder for better community use.

This, too, was shot down. But, increasingly, in other developed countries where housing crises are biting, the unthinkable is being considered.

Britain pioneered the use of city-constraining green belts in the postwar years, and they remain central to its spatial policy. The buffer around London is bigger than the city itself, and many blame it for stratospheric house prices. In 2018, a delegation of MPs approached former UK prime minister Theresa May asking her to relax the rules. She refused.

There was a similar debate in Germany, where in 2017 a new zoning status was instead created to allow higher-density construction. California recently implemented rule changes along similar lines.

Critics will say that green zones are the city’s lungs. But would the Earth stop spinning if a few slices around the edge of the Phoenix Park were set aside for city housing? It didn’t when the 100-acre Phoenix Park Racecourse was hived off during the last property boom.

McCarthy’s 20-year-old idea for St Anne’s seems revolutionary when you consider the situation there now. A proposal by developer Pat Crean to build 650 units in fields beside – not in – the park fell foul of a court action a year ago by local residents, who feared their walking amenity would be overlooked.

As Keegan said two years ago, Dublin needs homes but existing homeowners will not support the measures needed to supply these homes.


The Hague, The Netherlands

The secret of successful high-density housing is not just imaginative urban planning based on sustainability. It’s about the integration of land use and transport design to make the most of the space you’ve got. And nobody does that better than the Dutch.

If ever you’ve travelled by train in the Netherlands chances are you’ve noticed that most of what you saw from your window was countryside, not urban sprawl.

That’s because, with a population of just over 17 million in a country roughly the size of Munster, space has always been at a premium. What’s known as its “green heart” is jealously guarded. Land is never wasted.

This convinced Dutch planners in the 1970s that it made no sense to adopt the seductive US model of urban life appearing on Europe’s television screens – featuring large automobiles, endless highways, and urban conurbations dotted with shopping malls linking one town to the next. The Dutch alternative was to plan new urban development and infrastructure where it made most sense.

Stakeholder agreement was crucial, of course. But in design terms, of primary importance was to ensure that any substantial new development was tied into the rail network. This had two effects. The first was that car use was confined largely to local journeys that couldn’t be done by bicycle.The bulk of daily journeys were by public transport.

In addition, housing and commercial property demand focused naturally on the transport “hubs” – the main stations or switching points between rail, tram and bus, for instance. The result was high-density housing, typically with a smaller “footprint”, led by consumer demand.

And because it became desirable to live within walking or cycling distance of your local station, urban sprawl led by car use was substantially reduced – as were CO2 emissions.

These concepts are not new to Ireland. They were part of A Platform for Change, the pioneering land use and transportation plan produced by Dublin Transportation Office, a forerunner of the National Transport Authority, under its now retired chief executive John Henry. That report fell victim to a dearth of technical understanding at political level, piecemeal implementation and lack of funding. What needed to be done then still needs to be done now.



Belgium is famous for its bureaucracy and appalling customer service, but when it comes to housing it boasts a well-functioning, affordable and well-supplied rental market. If you want people in Ireland to consider renting longer term, three characteristics are absolutely essential.

First, you need to give people security of tenure and a feeling of long-term commitment. In Belgium this is achieved though standard three-year or nine-year leases. Deposits are generally three months’ rent and are paid into a blocked bank account of which both the tenants and owners are co-signers.

The deposit can be accessed only by agreement among all parties. Leases are automatically rolled over and it’s not unusual to spend 20 or 30 years in the same property. Properties here are generally unfurnished (we even had to buy our own fridge and dishwasher), which enables tenants to take a longer-term perspective on their living arrangements.

Second, pricing is absolutely key. Monthly rent must be cheaper than the equivalent mortgage payment. The discount reflects the fact that you are renting a property, not paying for ownership in incremental stages.

In the Belgian university city of Leuven, my monthly rent for a three-bedroom house is about 30 per cent cheaper than the equivalent mortgage payment. Tenants here don’t live in fear of huge increases in rent every year. Rents are inflation-linked, and salaries are also adjusted each year to take account of prevailing inflation rates.

Third, rented properties – particularly apartments – must be liveable for families. In Belgium, that generally means dual aspect, dedicated basement (and often attic) storage space and an overall footprint significantly in excess of Irish norms. Building cheaper, smaller apartments will do nothing to encourage families to embrace apartment living.

Linked to this is the importance of building apartments near city and town centres, local parks, playgrounds, schools and transport. Unfortunately, in Ireland we seem to excel at out-of-town apartment developments sadly marooned in a sea of road-based inaccessibility.


Bristol, UK

In a rising rental market those who suffer most are always those on lowest incomes. In Bristol, three of these groups – students, key workers and young homeless people – have been brought together to live in LaunchPad, an initiative of the Bristol Housing Festival.

The 31 shipping container-style (but actually purpose-built) studio apartments were built in just six months in on a disused council car park, with the first residents moving in last September. The project cost in the region of £1.5-£1.7 million.

The students and key workers – largely working in the health and education sectors – pay an average of £120 a week, with the young people, who are largely moving on from supported homeless accommodation, paying a social housing rent. A typical student rent in Bristol is £650 a month while market rents are about £1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

The project is a collaboration of Bristol Students’ Union, youth homeless charity 1625 Independent People and housing association United Communities.

The student tenancies are for one year, while the other tenants have a two-year agreement but, United Communities operations director Dave Bull said, tenancies will be renewable for all groups.

“We will give the option to extend because if we have a settled community we want to keep that together.”

Each studio is en-suite and equipped with a small kitchen, but there is also a larger communal kitchen and living room, which Bull says is an integral element of the scheme.

“The idea is people will get involved in social events and offer peer support. It’s not mandatory but we try to encourage it, particularly for the younger people to gain experience and confidence. It’s already happening organically and I think a large part of that was because no one was ‘placed’ here, everyone living here applied and bought into the concept.”


Latest news

Things worth noting

  • Switching your mortgage could see you keep €200 a month in your wallet

    Avant Money has brought fresh competition to the Irish lending market. Switching your mortgage can seem like a pain. It was hard enough to get […]

    Read more

  • David McWilliams: Why an Irish mortgage costs €80k more than a German one

    The macroeconomy operates with two arms: the fiscal arm and the monetary arm. It can been seen as a boxer, with a left jab and […]

    Read more

  • We need mortgage interest relief to make mortgages more affordable

    While the pandemic may have grabbed the public’s attention in recent months, the housing crisis, which dominated the last election, has not abated. Unfortunately, quality […]

    Read more

  • What the loss of Ulster Bank would mean for consumers

    When news broke on Friday that NatWest, parent of Ulster Bank was considering the winding down of the Bank, the market was surprised. It had […]

    Read more

  • Your money: Seven things you must know on the new mortgage playing field

    Cheaper home loans will be up for grabs for house hunters and homeowners in the coming weeks and months following the entry of a new […]

    Read more

  • Avant Money enters mortgage scene with lowest rate on market

    Leitrim-based consumer finance company Avant Money has begun taking applications for its products from Monday with a fixed rate mortgage offering that is the lowest […]

    Read more

  • Spanish giant to rattle the cages of big firms who have Irish market cornered

    You would be forgiven for thinking that competition in the mortgage market had gone by the wayside, like many things during the pandemic. Banks are […]

    Read more

  • Interest rate war brews as new bank joins market

    A Spanish banking giant is to enter the Irish mortgage market in a move sure to put massive pressure on existing lenders to slash their […]

    Read more

  • Banks block drawdowns until end of pay subsidy

    Builders and brokers say hundreds of agreed home sales are being placed in jeopardy because of an unintended consequence of the State’s emergency wage subsidies. […]

    Read more

  • Banks have yet to heal the €60bn bailout wounds of a decade ago

    A decade after a €60bn taxpayer bailout of the country’s main banks, we still have a problem with trust when it comes to how they […]

    Read more

  • Ireland faces second mortgage arrears crisis when payment breaks end this autumn, leading financial advisers warn

    A leading debt adviser has warned that 30,000 households — or around half of the 62,480 currently on home loan payment breaks — will fail […]

    Read more

  • Property body calls for extension of Help-to-Buy to secondhand homes

    IPAV chief Pat Davitt says Covid-19 presents “compelling logic” for scheme’s expansion. The Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers says the prospect of incomes being […]

    Read more

  • House prices due to fall sharply in wake of pandemic

    House prices are likely to fall sharply over the next year, a leading think tank has predicted. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has […]

    Read more

  • Central Bank boss defends banks withdrawing mortgage offers

    Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf has defended banks that are withdrawing mortgage offers to people whose incomes are hit by the fall-out from the pandemic. […]

    Read more

  • Irish Banks Again Europe’s Worst Performer as Crashes Add Up

    Once again, Irish banks are at the sharp edge of a global crisis. In 2008, it was the melting away of liquidity. Just over a […]

    Read more

  • Househunters squeezed as banks tighten rules in Covid-19 crisis

    Getting a mortgage can be stressful at the best of times. Add a pandemic and things ratchet up. Whether you are applying for a mortgage […]

    Read more

  • Mortgage borrowers hit by Covid-19 jobs slump ‘facing problems securing mortgage breaks’

    Mortgage borrowers previously in arrears but who are now up to date with their monthly payments have had difficulties in automatically accessing the three-month mortgage […]

    Read more

  • Banks add Covid-19 income conditions to mortgage offers

    Raft of assurances are sought over bonuses, overtime and future job security Several Irish banks and lenders are adding new conditions to mortgage loan offers, […]

    Read more

  • Self-employed may feel chill from Covid-19 for some time

    The self-employed face mortgage struggles. All business owners are weighing up the effect of the Covid-19 closures on their trade at present, with many trying […]

    Read more

  • House valuations are being reduced by 10pc during the mortgage process due to Covid 19 according to brokers

    Some bank valuations are lower than agreed sale prices due to Covid-19 “The valuations are coming in at less than what the agreed purchase prices […]

    Read more

  • Judge says fairer debt settlement system needed for Covid-19 economic crash

    A High Court judge has criticised the “all too common” practice of practitioners copying and pasting paragraphs from court papers in other cases without regard […]

    Read more

  • Q&A: Where do we stand on mortgage holidays and payment breaks?

    As the Covid-19 crisis deepens across the world, many are concerned about how they’ll continue paying outgoings when the money coming in the door is […]

    Read more

  • Family with €1m house would be ‘better off trading down’ as judge rejects personal insolvency deal

    A High Court judge has refused to approve proposed personal insolvency arrangements for a couple aimed at allowing their family to remain in a five-bedroom […]

    Read more

  • David McWilliams: We need to totally reimagine economics

    Our Central Bank has unforgivably abdicated in this crisis, precisely when it was needed. When events change, we change our minds. Old rules go out […]

    Read more

  • Insolvency lawyer warns of ‘disaster’ if firms reject Covid-19 wage subsidies

    The head of insolvency at one of Ireland’s top corporate law firms has warned that recent criticisms of the State’s scheme to pay 70 per […]

    Read more

  • Home truths: Covid’s duration will determine its impact on values

    Speculation about where house prices and the property market will end up in the aftermath of Covid-19 has already started, with the publication during the […]

    Read more

  • Doubts raised over Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme after lawyers warn the initiative is unworkable

    The crucial wage subsidy scheme aimed at keeping hundreds of thousands of people in jobs has been thrown into doubt after lawyers warned it was […]

    Read more

  • World will need new financial system after Covid-19

    The world as we know it is about to change radically as a result of Covid-19. How we live our lives, how we work, how […]

    Read more

  • Irish banks fielding 7,000 calls a day on mortgage breaks

    The Republic’s five mainstream banks have been dealing with an average of 7,000 calls a day from homeowners since they agreed last week to industry-wide […]

    Read more

  • New house prices to fall 15% to 20% – analyst

    Investors believe that the Covid-19 crisis will slash new house prices by 15 to 20 per cent, one stock market analyst says. A note from […]

    Read more

  • Those who test positive likely to struggle to get life and mortgage protection cover

    Concerns: Michael Dowling fears some people will be unable to take out life cover People who test positive for Covid-19 may struggle to get life […]

    Read more

  • Apple’s €15bn back tax could fund Ireland’s cash crunch

    Where will the money come from? The cash being thrown at economies around the world will, in the first instance, be borrowed. Ultimately, taxes will […]

    Read more

  • How to navigate the property market during the pandemic

    These are testing times. Covid-19 has reached into every sector, including the property market, and everyone is scrambling to adapt to the challenge. For those […]

    Read more

  • State may need to ramp up spending to €34bn

    Employers’ group Ibec and trade unions have called on the Government to step up payments for workers and companies in response to the economic damage […]

    Read more

  • No hit to credit record for those who get mortgage break off bank

    A deal is being hammered out between the Central Bank and main lenders so people who avail of a Covid-19 mortgage payment break will not […]

    Read more

  • Temporary ban on all evictions is to be introduced for duration of coronavirus crisis

    The Government has confirmed that a temporary ban on evictions and rent increases will be introduced for the duration of the Coronavirus crisis. Housing Minister […]

    Read more

  • Dublin house sales fall 1.5% as affordability pushes buyers out

    Biggest slowdown in sales were in Dublin 6 and Dublin 13, down 22,3% and down 30.1% respectively The number of houses sold in Dublin fell […]

    Read more

  • €32m debts written off by court in three days

    More than €32m in personal debt has been written off this week under insolvency arrangements approved by the High Court. The huge sum relates to […]

    Read more

  • €2m debt write-off for publican approved

    The High Court has rejected objections raised by a vulture fund to a personal insolvency arrangement (PIA) writing off €2m in debts owed by a […]

    Read more

  • Chasm between values of new and second-hand houses

    A growing chasm between the values of new and second hand homes has been highlighted by the banking sector which says loans issued to first-time […]

    Read more

  • Irish banks still lack ‘consumer-focused culture’, regulator warns

    Central Bank highlights risks to Irish consumers of ‘irresponsible unsecured lending’ The Central Bank has identified a number of key risks to consumers of financial […]

    Read more

  • Coronavirus: Irish banks offer relief to borrowers hit by coronavirus

    Goldman Sachs sees coronavirus fallout wiping €30bn off European banks’ profits Banks in the Republic said they will offer relief, including short payment holidays on […]

    Read more

  • Dermot Desmond: Everyone has a right to a home. Here is how it can be done

    We have allowed homes to become a globally traded financial asset, inflating the price of those homes, the profits of developers, and the value of […]

    Read more

  • Dublin’s cool Northside moves ahead of stuffy Southside to hold the housing hotspots

    Q Two northsiders are travelling in a car. The music is turned off and the windows are up. Who’s driving? A: The Garda. Q: How […]

    Read more

  • AIB drops fee for mortgage customers breaking out of fixed rate

    AIB is allowing some customers to break out of fixed mortgages and lock into lower ones at no cost, in a move that is likely […]

    Read more

  • Ulster Bank fined €4.6m over data on mortgages

    ULSTER Bank has been fined €4.6m by the Central Bank for failings around mortgage data it supplied to the regulator. The fine would have been […]

    Read more

  • Debt-for-equity swaps could help thousands of insolvent people

    Seniors could resolve unaffordable mortgages if law ‘tweaked’, say debtor advisers Thousands of older people in long-term arrears on their mortgages could benefit from a […]

    Read more

  • Pressure now on more banks to cut their rates in mortgage price war

    More banks are coming under pressure to reduce their mortgage rates after market leader AIB announced a number of reductions. The focus is now on […]

    Read more

  • Just 8,000 houses built last year offered for sale on open market, says CIF

    Investment funds bought 95% of 3,644 apartments completed last year Only about 8,000 of the 21,000 new homes built in the Republic last year were […]

    Read more

  • Mortgage holders here still paying double Euro average

    MORTGAGE rates in this country have fallen below 3pc for the first time in years. But there is scope for much deeper cuts, mortgage experts […]

    Read more

  • Revolution in fintech keeps the bankers awake at night

    Shake-up: Revolut and other fintech firms are forcing banks to increase their tech focus I was more than a little surprised at the response I […]

    Read more

  • AIB was always going to lose battle – it’s just a pity it waited so long to concede

    AIB was always on to a loser trying to defend its actions in denying 6,000 customers tracker mortgages. The bank tripped itself up and was […]

    Read more

  • Pensions reform should be high on everyone’s political agenda

    Graying vote has set political parties a-jitter hence the ill-judged promises. Pensions have became the unexpected issue of the election. And just for once, it is […]

    Read more

  • The changes still needed to tackle the banks’ bad management cultures

    Regulation: Unlike the UK authority, the Central Bank of Ireland does not have competitional law enforcement powers, an issue which deserves to be reconsidered Banking […]

    Read more

  • Paul Joyce: Mortgage arrears have been ignored but not solved

    Housing, homelessness, and healthcare have justifiably dominated the election so far. But one aspect of the housing crisis, however, that has received little attention is […]

    Read more

  • Home truths: The story of Eoghan and the home hoovers

    The big view on Ireland’s property market Whenever Eoghan Murphy is asked about his unforgettable term as Minister for Housing, one of the first things […]

    Read more

  • Typical household wealth has risen to €184,900 – but renters are losing out

    The wealth of households has shot up due to rising property values. But renters have very little wealth, according to figures from the Central Statistics […]

    Read more

  • Most people unaware about credit card interest rate they are charged

    The majority of Irish credit card users are unaware of the interest rate they pay, or how it is applied. And even those who say […]

    Read more

  • Divorce: what happens to the family home?

    For parting couples with property to divide, it’s complicated. When love leaves the building, what happens to the home? For most, the family home is […]

    Read more

  • Frank McDonald: Housing policy a litany of failure

    Current housing policies benefit wide array of monied interests Whoever forms the next government will have to deal with Ireland’s utterly dysfunctional housing sector and […]

    Read more

  • First-time buyers drive growth in mortgage values and volumes

    Banking & Payments Federation Ireland publishes figures for fourth quarter of 2019 First-time buyers drove increases in the volume and value of mortgage drawdowns during […]

    Read more

  • Mother (93) has right of residence upheld despite judgment against son

    Any failure to properly provide for Eithne Ryan ‘lies squarely’ with her son, says judge A 93-year-old woman is “perfectly entitled” to continue residing at […]

    Read more

  • Housing crisis: Seven solutions to Ireland’s biggest problem

    Cut building costs, incentivise buy-to-rent and overhaul property tax, experts advise ‘The Housing Fix’ is an Irish Times series exploring solutions to Ireland’s housing crisis […]

    Read more

  • Fianna Fáil may have just pressed the pause button on the property market

    The party’s new SSIA may cause a significant number of housebuyers to put their plans on hold for an unspecified period The man who is […]

    Read more

  • Court approves debt for equity swap insolvency arrangement

    Decision is first to be approved by High Court involving a debt for equity swap The High Court has approved a personal insolvency arrangement (PIA) for a […]

    Read more

  • Record €60m debt write-off for former quarry operator gets High Court approval

    A former quarry operator has had a €60m debt write-off approved by the High Court – the largest ever under personal insolvency legislation. Enda Patrick […]

    Read more

  • State-backed mortgage scheme hikes interest rates steeply despite bank cuts

    The interest rate on the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan product has been increased massively. Rates have shot up by up to 0.75pc at a […]

    Read more

  • Home truths: Big time housing promises without taxes are hollow

    What can you get for €16bn these days? Well €16bn is the total amount estimated that Irish people will spend online this year. The Consumer […]

    Read more

  • One in 10 mortgage arrears cases involve separated borrowers – BPFI

    Banking lobby group calls for State to introduce measures to help separated borrowers. About one in 10 mortgage arrears cases involve borrowers who are separated, […]

    Read more

  • In your pocket: Switching mortgage can bring major savings

    Rates are falling and lenders are keen to offer better deals – it’s easier than you think. Up to 160,000 Irish families are out of […]

    Read more

  • Mortgage interest rates dip but remain more than double euro-zone average

    Central Bank statistics show weighted average interest rates on new mortgages was 2.9% in November. Interest rates on mortgages taken by Irish consumers were lower […]

    Read more

  • New buyers pay €2,000 a year more than rest of eurozone

    RIP-OFF mortgage rates in this country are costing new home buyers €2,000 a year more than our European neighbours. New figures from the Central Bank […]

    Read more

  • Pensions deliver decade-best growth of 20.6% in 2019

    Zurich Life tops peers as funds recover from calamitous end to 2018. Irish pension funds delivered bumper returns in 2019, making it the best year for investment returns in […]

    Read more

  • Another year of dysfunction ahead for Ireland’s property market

    Looming general election and UK-EU trade talks add to uncertainty for developers. With the new year now a week old and a raft of predictions […]

    Read more

  • Responsible Homeowners Betrayed

      Thousands of responsible homeowners have been betrayed by the sale of their mortgages by PTSB into a bond fund which will be serviced by […]

    Read more

  • Revealed: Ireland’s most expensive streets and their €2m plus homes

    Daily growth of €15m in value of housing stock fuelled by new supply rather than increasing prices, writes Wayne O’Connor A leafy Dublin street sandwiched […]

    Read more

  • Harsh austerity ‘imposed on Ireland’ by Berlin, says ex-official

    Republic caught in crossfire between Germany and other bailout states   Ireland was hit with unnecessarily harsh austerity measures a decade ago at Berlin’s behest, […]

    Read more

  • Value of residential property in Ireland up by 5.3bn euro in last 12 months

    SEVEN HUNDRED AND fifteen properties worth €1 million or more have been sold in Ireland so far this year, according to the latest Wealth Report from […]

    Read more

Want to start the process?

Let us guide you through the mortgage process