Report: is it time to look seriously at the measures used by the German capital to get it houses in order?

Ireland is not the only country with a housing crisis right now. In Berlin, they're also feeling the squeeze and some radical solutions, including a cap on rents for five years and a referendum to force investors to sell homes to government, have been proposed. 

So what can we learn from the German city? Richard Curran was joined on RTÉ Radio 1's The Business by Lorcan Sirr (housing policy analyst and lecturer at TU Dublin), Orla Hegarty (lecturer at the School of Architecture, Planning & Environment at UCD) and Derek Scally (The Irish Times) to run the rule over how Berlin has done things and if we can import those solutions here. 

But it may not be as easy as it seems, warned Sirr. "I'm not sure it would even get beyond the starting line", he said. "In my experience, Berliners are quite active and quite good at activism, but I'm not sure if we're up to that here. We do have a rent cap of 4% but it is being breached in a lot of places because there are loopholes."

We have gone down a lot of unsustainable paths in terms of what's being paid for houses

Berlin's housing problems do show that we're dealing with an universal issue. "The financialisation of housing is not just a problem in Ireland", said Hegarty. "Affordability is not just an issue for Ireland. This is happening all over. 

"What we've learned from Berlin is that if you go down an unsustainable path, you eventually get to a point where there has to be some shock to the system and something radical has to happen. We may be on that path here. We have gone down a lot of unsustainable paths in terms of what's being paid for houses."

One solution which Hegarty identified was the use of publicly owned and controlled land. "For example, there is a news story that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council may take over a block in Dundrum on a 25 year lease at €2m a year to house 90 families. They may have to commit €50m of debt onto their books to house 90 families. Within a mile of that site, there's publicly owned land where cost rental - where your rental covers all of your costs - could be built for half of that price. Rather than a commitment to €2,500 a month for a two bedroom apartment, the State could be doing it for €1,200 or €1,300 a month."

From RTÉ Explained By Prime Time, an explainer on social housing in Ireland

For Sirr, regulation and public housing are possible ways forward "We always hear from landlord associations that they'll flee the market if there's more regulation, but that doesn't really happen. We also don't have the concept of public housing here. We have social housing, which is for the most financially challenged, but there is a whole cohort of people in the middle, on incomes between €36,000 and €76,000 as a household, who are really struggling and they're the target market for public housing, which we don't do here."

Listen to the item in full below