This paper traces aspects of the development of Irish housing from the early 1900s up to the 1970s, when housing became integrated into the contemporary industrialized, market-based system of provision. Two contextual themes in particular help to explain policy development. Firstly, the response in the earlier part of the century to industrialization, with its associated slum housing, poor sanitation and the spread of disease, prompted a range of public health and later social housing actions. The other significant development was the creation of a property owning class among rural tenants as a result of agrarian campaigning and legislation, thus associating housing with land and property.
After Independence, the State funded major house-building programmes, with policy alternating between providing subsidies for private and public provision of housing. Housing programmes were used to stimulate economic growth and were arguably a useful populist tool to secure political support through the promotion of home ownership. By the 1960s, this critical mass of State-built housing provided a foundation for the State promotion of a housing market, with new policy supports for mortgage lending. However, there was minimal regulation on planning, land prices and community facilities. This laissez-faire approach led to major price increases in development land and rising house prices for workers migrating to the cities. The legacies of that time have significantly affected public perceptions of the integrity of housing policy to the present day where significant numbers of citizens view their housing as an asset.