A Dublin community regeneration team has proposed piloting a Cost Rental Model of housing as a workable solution to the housing crisis.
Representatives of St Michael's Estate told the Oireachtas Housing Committee about the hurdles faced by residents since the local authority flat complex was designated for regeneration back in 1998.
Following three proposed plans for the estate, the group believes the current plan by the Department of Housing and Dublin City Council will result in the land being given away to a valuable developer.
Community Regeneration Worker Eilish Comerford said a Cost Rental Model for St Michael's would meet housing needs, reduce housing costs and would promote long-term housing and community sustainability.
Cost rental, according to the National Economic and Social Council, is when a housing provider raises the finance to provide accommodation and then charges rents that are sufficient to cover current and capital costs.
Those who cannot afford a cost-covering rent generally receive housing support.
Rents in a cost rental situation are generally lower than market rents. Typically there is some form of subsidy - such as a provision of low cost finance, loan guarantees or preferential access to land.
The lower rent is partly but not solely due to subsidisation.
Cost rental uses modest supply-side supports to underpin affordability according to NESC. However, it also makes rent permanently affordable by ensuring that the equity that accrues as loans are repaid is used in the service of further affordable housing.
Ms Comerford pointed out that St Michael's Estate is public land and "it should remain in public ownership and used for the public good".
She said the cost rental model would relieve the pressure and burden from people who are "stuck" in the unregulated private rental sector and would give an alternative to lifetime mortgages and lifelong debt.
Many members of the cross-party committee responded positively to the suggestion of cost rental this morning.
The Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute Dr Tom Healy said misconceptions about such a model includes: every individual, couple or family pays the same rent everywhere for the same type of dwelling; that 'cost-rental' is the same as 'social housing', in other words, subsidised housing for those who cannot afford it otherwise; that 'cost-rental', on its own, is the answer to the housing crisis; and that 'cost-rental' is a way of getting around Eurostat or CSO rules and interpretations to engineer public expenditure 'off-the-books'.
The committee heard that Austria is a leading international example of how a cost rental housing sector is a critical component of an effective, affordable and stable housing system.
Dr Healy said: "to do this 'off-the-books' such as is the case in Austria then that would be a positive development. If not, the idea still makes good economic and social sense".
John Bissett of St Michael's Estate described the Austrian housing system as a good example.
He added: "housing does not create economic inequality in this country. Housing reflects the economic inequality that exists in Irish society".