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Affordable Housing Game: Dublin

Irish National Housing Agency

Supports policy makers that develop an implementable agenda for affordable housing across European Cities.


Dublin, Ireland 

Partners: Urban Land Institute

2 Sessions with 60 Participants

The Affordable Housing Game is a policy-making game designed to help housing professionals in European cities develop their affordable housing agendas, work through entrenched problems, and test future policy scenarios. Commissioned by the Urban Land Institute, the Affordable Housing Game was developed by Play the City. It provides a platform for exchanging ideas and knowledge across sectors and disciplines, with the aim of developing new, innovative, and collaborative solutions to complex and entrenched challenges.

The housing sector in Ireland collapsed in 2008 – a decline evidenced in the steep decline in investment in residential projects, the dramatic reduction in employment in the construction industry, and an anemic level of housing completions in the subsequent four years. However, the economy has rebounded strongly since 2012. Widespread employment growth in recent years and the housing demands created by a growing population have given rise to a mismatch between the demand for new dwellings and the supply of new residential properties. The Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, an initiative of the Irish government, aims to double the rate of homebuilding in the country over the next five years. Making the best use of available state land will play a critical role in meeting this objective. Also, boosting the number of new homes available to rent or buy in areas of high demand is a central part of the efforts to meet the needs of a relatively young population that is expected to continue growing over the coming years. Increasing housing supply can also reduce volatility in the market and support a strong economy.

All existing affordable housing schemes in Ireland were stood down in 2011. However, in response to recent developments in the market, policy makers are examining new ways to help moderate-income households meet the cost of housing. Efforts to develop affordable housing schemes are occurring alongside the implementation of policies to increase the number of social housing supports available to households. Affordable housing is meant to bridge the gap between social and market-rate housing and serve tenants earning an income that exceeds social housing limits. Affordability is being included as an important part of the vocabulary for future developments. Continuation of these efforts requires public and private parties to rebuild trust between each other in order to form a better working relationship.

The Dublin Game

Dublin was the first city to implement the Affordable Housing Game. The game was developed in partnership with the Irish Housing Agency, which wished to explore, through the game, two main questions:

• What are the most effective strategies for introducing affordable housing into Ireland?

• What are particular collaborations between public and private parties to provide and sustain a long-term affordable housing market?

A cross-section of stakeholders from the public and private sectors played the game on 22 June 2017 at Hines Real Estate office. Players included housing officials, housing providers, investors, and members of nonprofit organisations. Recommendations resulting from the game include:

• define affordability for the Irish context;

• enable innovative schemes;

• increase engagement and understanding;

• and tackle the barrier of high land costs.

1. Defining affordability for the Irish context

Game players used a variety of definitions of affordability because in Ireland there is no current overarching definition for affordable housing. Players could collaborate to help develop a common understanding of affordable housing, which could be incorporated into the Irish government’s Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness.

2. Enabling innovative schemes

Strategy cards applied in the game introduced policies and other strategies used in other parts of the world to support affordable housing. Some players learned about new ideas from these cards. New practices for Dublin could be taken from strategy cards or other successful cases from abroad.

3. Increasing engagement and understanding

Increased engagement and understanding across sectors could help address current gaps in opinion amongst stakeholders. An example of this is the differing cost estimates for residential construction in Dublin. Collaboration on these matters could make the housing process more efficient and lead to a higher quality of housing stock.

4. Tackling the barrier of high land costs

Players agreed on the necessity of local or national government subsidies in order to make projects financially viable. The high cost of land is an obstacle to affordable housing that needs to be addressed.

A follow-up game session was held for the Housing Agency. During this session, Dublin players continued to explore the housing situation in their city and were briefed on outcomes of the Amsterdam game session.

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