Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

13 February 2003 Edition

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Cronyism adds to housing crisis

The 26-County government said this week it is considering holding a referendum to cap prices on housing land.

This smacks of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. This is the same government that has withdrawn First Time Buyers Grants without providing a viable alternative and which has given the green light to developers to buy their way out of the requirement to provide affordable housing.

The government says the referendum won't be soon, though it can act with amazing speed when it suits. Before Christmas, legislation was urgently passed giving 16,000 new sites to builders in favour with the government.

The latest Social Partnership commitment to construct 10,000 affordable houses in the next ten years is a pathetic sop considering the government's concessions to speculators. If you have a state where building developers are in league with the government, you have a housing crisis.

Then, of course, there is the government's downright lenience towards private rented landlords, many of whom still are not registered for tax.

The lack of regulation of the private rented sector is a disgrace. Private landlords can charge €2,000 a month for a three-bedroom house in Dublin.

The 26 Counties is only second in the world to New Zealand for home ownership, but this is not surprising when you think about it.

If it is cheaper to pay a mortgage than pay rent, or if the council house waiting list is three years long, then people will want to buy, even at today's extortionate prices. If you are in a flat with no security of tenure or rent control, you will want to buy.

The flip side, of course, is that most renters are caught in the Catch 22 of not being able to afford the deposit for a house, so they are left to the tender mercies of the private landlord.

The government not only lacks the will, but also the imagination to end the housing crisis. Affordable accommodation is all most people want, not necessarily a three bedroom semi-d of their own.

A few new imaginative ideas, combined with a willingness to take on private landlords, speculators and property developers, would work wonders.

This government's record, however, speaks more to cronyism than commitment.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1