Cover story: The foundations of a sustainable rental sector
1st August 2018
Rebuilding Ireland: Minister Eoghan Murphy, TD
1st August 2018

Michael Carey, Housing Agency Chairperson

As the new Chair of the Housing Agency, I am very much looking forward to working with all stakeholders in the housing sector to help address the challenges facing many Irish families as they struggle to secure a home. I am very aware that there is no quick fix and that only through working together will we make the necessary progress over the coming years.

I come to the housing sector as a relative outsider. I’ve spent most of my working career in the food industry but I believe my outsider perspective will help me to make a useful contribution to the work of the Agency; coming into this role without baggage or any conflict of interest will allow me to credibly engage with all stakeholders, hopefully with some fresh thinking.

I spent much of my career working in senior management roles in large multinational food groups (such as Managing Director of Fox’s Biscuits and Managing Director of Kellogg’s UK and Ireland). In the second half of my career to date I have been an entrepreneur and investor; owning and managing a number of food businesses. I am currently Executive Chairman of ‘The Company of Food’, a specialist food sector investment business, and I chair the boards of a number of our investments.

Aside from my day job in the food sector, I have recently completed two terms as Chairman of An Bord Bia, playing a leadership role in building Bord Bia into one of the most respected state agencies in the country. I have also been Chairman of the Grow Dublin Tourism Alliance, and a member of the Advisory Board at Smurfit Graduate School of Business in UCD.

Current housing situation

The challenges facing our society in relation to housing are significant:

  • the recent increases in number impacted by homelessness;
  • the large numbers of families in mortgage arrears;
  • the challenges of cost and affordability of housing (both rental and for purchase);
  • the rate of supply of both social and private housing; and
  • the need for optimum use of vacant homes.

These are all fundamental issues that must be addressed.

It is clear that all of the key stakeholders share a desire to fix these problems, although there seems to be some fundamental differences in views on how best to ensure they are addressed and there are many barriers preventing us from making the desired progress.

As Chairman of the Housing Agency, I will seek to ensure that this organisation plays its full part in delivering the solutions and overcoming those barriers. I believe that the Agency is well placed to be a world-class knowledge base for housing policy and practice, working closely with the Department, the Local Authorities and the Approved Housing Bodies to develop and implement policies that will achieve the right results.

Immediate priorities

I do not come to this role with a simplistic belief that there are easy solutions, I do not come with fixed views on how the Housing Agency should act to meet its objectives. My initial priorities in this role are:

  1. To initiate and oversee a review of the role and purpose of the Housing Agency, to refresh its Statement of Strategy, to clarify its key priorities and ensure its resources are being optimised, so that the Housing Agency becomes one of the most respected state agencies. The output of this review will be very clear in terms of intended deliverables.
  2. To seek to ensure that the Housing Agency has a high level of engagement with all of its key stakeholders, and that the views and inputs from all perspectives of the issues are captured in the thinking behind the programmes of the Agency. Achieving a clear understanding of the roles of, and relationships with, each of these stakeholders and sister agencies will make the efforts of the Housing Agency more effective and will avoid duplication of effort.
  3. Finally, to ensure that the metrics used by the Agency are appropriate and that the data being used is robust. I will aim to focus on specific deliverable outputs of the Housing Agency, ensuring clarity of what it aims to achieve and its performance against those targets.

In short, I intend to focus the organisation on getting the job done.

As I become fully briefed on all of the current issues and challenges facing the Housing Agency, and as we finalise a revised Statement of Strategy, I look forward to engaging closely with all stakeholders over the coming months. The outgoing Chair, Conor Skehan, has done an excellent job leading the Agency over the past five­­ years and I look forward to playing my part to build on that foundation to help enable people to live in good quality, affordable homes in sustainable communities.