Eoin Condren: Innovation is the key to Dublin's future workforce


Crisis is often the spur to innovation, so where is it in Dublin’s housing market?

Last week (Tuesday 11 September), I participated in a panel-discussion on the future of Dublin’s property market which was hosted in U+I’s recently launched, redeveloped Donnybrook House in the heart of Donnybrook Village, Dublin. The discussion was both lively and thought-provoking, and focused mainly on the balancing act we as developers must achieve, between affordability and innovation, in order to ensure the future workforce in Dublin has the environment it needs to survive.

While not everyone agrees on how Dublin’s housing crisis could and should be solved, there is no such disagreement on the need for action, and the need for innovation. The private sector has a responsibility to push this innovation, challenge accepted norms and champion change.  

As Dublin continues to surge into the future, emerging as the technology hub in Western Europe, the city’s aspirations as a key European capital are being increasingly challenged as the population continues to grow, placing further strain on an already strained housing market.

There is no silver bullet, no golden ticket, no one solution. But what I do know is that we must find creative and flexible ways to unlock the centre of this great city to the new generations of workers if Dublin is to ensure its future workforce has the environment it needs to survive.

At U+I, we recently commissioned some research in Dublin amongst large employers and recruiters relating to the challenges for companies securing talent when housing is in short supply. Worryingly, yet unsurprisingly, a significant proportion of employers saw housing supply as a real challenge to retention and recruitment of talent. Urgent solutions are required.

Two things must be considered in responding to this crisis. The first is the fact that the 9 to 5 model that emphasised ‘presenteeism’ is waning significantly, with millennials now more demanding than ever about the environment they work in.

Secondly, research we commissioned last year from Futurist James Wallman, showed that we are less bothered about owning things as technology becomes more of an enabler. The market needs to adapt and respond to these needs.

We are responding to this challenge in the UK by building imaginative mixed-use regeneration projects where people can do just that, allowing everyone the opportunity to live in the city. We need to come to terms with the fact that not everybody wants to live in a traditional ‘two-up, two-down’ setting in the suburbs. We need a mix of homes types to meet the diverse needs of our city today. 

One answer, part of the solution, may lie in what we call ‘Compact Living’ developments - small beautifully designed rental apartments with a fantastic offer of shared space and amenities. Just one example of the creative thinking we need to meet the very different needs of the 21st century city dweller, allowing Dublin City to continue to grow, stronger.