Crossing Borders

Gillian Young, Tony O'Sullivan, Declan Redmond, Neale Blair, Suzie Cave, Ken Gibb

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


This report examines the structure and operation of rural housing markets in the Irish BorderRegion – more specifically the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) area. It considersthe extent to which housing choices transcend the border between Northern Ireland and theRepublic of Ireland, and the nature of community residential segregation. Research was conducted between August 2011 and March 2012 and involved a literature review, secondary data analysis and extensive interviewing. The main findings are that:• Housing systems have not featured greatly in cross-border studies to date, and analysis ofrural housing systems is sparse.• Research into the factors that shape spatial patterns of segregation have identified fourbroadly defined processes (behavioural, institutional, economic and socio-psychological).• A complex national, regional and local policy framework, informed by European Unioneconomic development and cohesion policies, underpins the operation of housing systemsin the ICBAN area. EU policy and spatial planning policy in both jurisdictions continues toevolve at a rapid pace. However, planning for housing and housing policy development atdifferent spatial scales continues to be dealt with in a ‘back-to-back’ manner.• Europe is still in the aftermath of global financial crisis and housing market conditions areexpected to remain very difficult throughout Ireland for the next few years.• The uncertain economic outlook makes it difficult to draw any robust conclusions withrespect to future housing demand. However, housing markets across Europe appear to belargely national in nature, with very limited numbers of people choosing to engage in crossborder living, especially in predominantly rural areas. The available evidence suggests that, in keeping with this European wide pattern, cross-border housing market linkages in theICBAN area are not very significant.• Detailed investigation of local housing circumstances in the Lisnaskea - Newtownbutler -Clones area found highly localised housing markets serving close knit communities, with noevidence that Lisnaskea, Newtownbutler or Clones form part of a wider spatially connectedhousing market. Housing need (and demand for social housing) is modest, while housingmarket difficulties are compounded by economic development and regeneration issues.Patterns of residential segregation along community lines have been in evidence for manydecades and become entrenched over time. Qualitative evidence suggests that communitytensions and sectarian behaviour are no longer major drivers of this process in Lisnaskeaor Clones, but there is overt friction in Newtownbutler, often focused around the paradesissue.• In the Armagh - Middletown - Monaghan area, the evidence again indicates thin andlocalised housing markets that stop at the border in both directions. The housing system inthis area is not pressured in general terms, although there is high demand for social housingin the western part of Armagh City. Stable and resilient patterns of segregation are evident,but these are not based on current or recent experience of fear, harassment, or intimidation.In general, the main driver that sustains the deep rooted patterns of residential segregationobserved is the local knowledge and behaviour of residents and their desire, all otherthings being equal, to choose to live in places comprised of other households with similarcharacteristics.The degree of place attachment to very tightly drawn locations found in this study is nottypical of rural areas in mainland Britain, but it is redolent of some remote rural areas inScotland that are a long distance from major urban centres, where ‘village life’, kinship andfriendship ties are keenly developed. This phenomenon may impose constraints on the abilityof the ICBAN network to grow the local economy and attract new people and new ideas intothe area.More generally, we conclude that behavioural and socio-psychological factors in the forms ofclose families ties and affinity to local communities have had the greatest impact in shapingthe residential decisions of households across all tenures and on both sides of the border. Anypolicy adopted to work against such deeply ingrained and path dependent commitmentsto place and community in the ICBAN area would have to recognise the degree of resistance(not necessarily overt or confrontational) likely to be met, and that future housing movementchoices would have a strong tendency towards reversion.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNorthern Ireland Housing Executive
Number of pages126
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Oct 2012


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