Sometimes, a certain problem isn’t really the main problem. Like, it’s not the major spanner in the works, or the serious glue in the gears. It’s just something that isn’t working exactly right – it’s a little messed up, or annoyingly off-centre. At the same time, maybe that smaller problem is indicative of a bigger, and potentially more abstract, problem. Maybe it’s actually a way to see the shape of the bigger problem, to get a clearer picture of what’s really causing the issues in the first place.
In this week’s episode of Supply & Demand, we’re looking at two problems that aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, the reasons why there’s a housing crisis in Dublin. I think they do, however, tell us something about the nature of that crisis. They point to some of the fundamental assumptions that underpin it, that sustain it, and contribute to a lack of fresh ideas that might actually help us to get out of it. We’re going to look at short-term letting and student accommodation.
If you were to look at each of these issues in isolation, you might conclude that, while problematic, they’re hardly the areas of most concern. But, to my mind, these are “tip of the iceberg” issues – they’re the visible aspects of a problem that runs much deeper. They represent bottlenecks in the housing system, situations where an opportunity for profit has been seen and capitalised on, often at the expense of people with nowhere else to go.
The two issues are linked, as they both concern a need for a sort of transient accommodation – they’re focused on people who aren’t looking for a long-term commitment. The people passing through might be quite different, but looking at them both through a similar lens can be illuminating.
One thing to note: Supply & Demand was created with the help of GoCar, so you’ll hear an advertisement for GoCar in the middle of each episode. This podcast would have been impossible to make without GoCar’s financial support, but they had no input into or oversight of the content of the episodes.
[CORRECTION: This podcast was updated on Thursday 21 February at 12pm. An earlier version said that rent-a-room tax relief can be used for short-term letting. This is incorrect. We apologise for the error.]