Dublin’s housing crisis to be focal point of Re:publica tech conference

5 Sep 2017

The scene at Re:publica Dublin last year. Image: Re:publica

Dublin isn’t unique with its accommodation crisis, but a creative solution is needed fast.

It may surprise some people that Berlin has a housing problem, too, just not as acute or at the same scale, said Andreas Gebhard, founder of the Re:publica tech conference, which returns to Dublin from 7 to 8 September for its second week this year.

Re:publica is one of the world’s largest digital culture conferences and every year, its Berlin edition attracts more than 10,000 visitors.

Last year, it held its first Dublin event, and this week’s edition at the Light House Cinema in Smithfield is expected to draw in more than 200 attendees.

Re:publica is also expanding its events to the Greek city of Thessaloniki, which is also fostering a creative digital society in the wake of a faltering economy.

A housing crisis in a tech bubble

Dublin’s housing crisis to be a focal point of Re:publica tech conference

Re:publica founder Andreas Gebhard. Image: Re:publica

This week, ‘Housing Crisis in a Tech Bubble’ will be a key discussion subject at the Dublin event.

Although Dublin is one of Europe’s fastest expanding tech hubs, it is also the centre of a massive housing crisis, and this could have a corrosive effect on efforts to enable the city to maintain its digital crown.

The investment situation aside, word of mouth from overseas tech workers smarting from bad property search experiences is spreading.

Homelessness is on the rise in almost all European countries, and the Re:publica event will explore how digital platforms have provided a rallying point for housing rights activism, epitomised by the support online for the occupation of Apollo House.

Re:publica will bring together activists, squatters and members of the tech industry to address how we can tackle the crisis. This session will be open to the public for free due to its relevance to the city.

“We are focusing on topics that matter to the development of the digital society,” Gebhard told Siliconrepublic.com. “We are taking a holistic approach, not only looking at the impact on business and tech, but also the impact of all of these changes to the whole society.”

The European digital society perspective

Dublin’s housing crisis to be a focal point of Re:publica tech conference

A scene from Re:publica in Dublin last year. Image: Re:publica

Gebhard said that the housing crisis was recommended for inclusion at Re:publica by the Dublin digital creative community.

“We recognise that this is a very important issue for Dublin. We try to compare different situations. There is a similar property crisis in Berlin, but not at the same scale. Everybody who wants to be in exciting places comes to Berlin, not only for the tech scene, but for art and creativity, too. The housing situation is difficult but for Dublin, it is a serious problem.

“By comparison, in Thessaloniki, where we are holding a Re:publica event in two weeks, the problem is wages and not houses and, as a result, creative people are leaving the city. In a way, that frees up space for others but it is interesting how people are shifting between cities.”

Gebhard describes Re:publica as a digital society event rather than a tech conference that hinges around start-ups.

“We are questioning how we can build a much more sustainable digital society with positives, not negatives.

“The crazy thing with the housing crisis is that it shouldn’t be like that. We want to look at the problem but always with a positive view.

“We love tech too, and we want to gather the people who are deeply involved in tech projects, but who also want to have a social impact.

“In our Dublin and Thessaloniki editions, we want to bring together these different European experiences as well as foster insight from other cities in Europe to create more discussion around our digital future.”

Looking to the future of Re:publica in Dublin, Gebhard said that it took more than 10 years to get the event to the scale it is in Berlin, with 10,000 participants and 20 stages.

“Dublin and Thessaloniki will be more intimate. It is all about fostering deep and interesting conversations – it’s not just the convergence of knowledge, but getting people to interact and network.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years