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Steps to Solve Our Housing Crisis

 

The dysfunctional housing market has major implications for the Irish economy, our citizens’ wellbeing, the labour market, inward and domestic investment.

We’ve had many government interventions but none have succeeded in taking the housing crisis off the front pages for more than a few days.  We continue to have yet another report or another retired civil servant heading up a new quango.

The issue is having a major psychological impact, affecting people’s ability to be productive citizens. It will undoubtedly lead to more tragic homeless deaths, and more families sleeping in Garda stations.

Some €39 million was spent in 2017 on accommodating homeless families in hotels and B&Bs in Dublin. Another €9.9 million was spent on other private emergency accommodation. Almost €50 million in one year. Assuming Local Authorities outside Dublin are spending a similar amount that’s likely to be €100m for short-term temporary fixes.

If this €100 million every year was to be used to pay back interest on a housing bond, the state could borrow €8- €10 billion, assuming a 1pc interest rate, to invest in long term solutions. Ireland can borrow money at record low levels. This would build 30-40,000 housing units at an average cost of €250,000 each.

Whether or not the roof over your head is owned by you, mortgaged to the bank, rented from a landlord or the state itself, it amounts to a place called ‘home’, which temporary accommodation never can do.

Drivers of demand such as net migration, obsolescence, household formation and a strong economy mean that demand for accommodation will continue to rise. Increased supply is the only way to solve the housing affordability problem.

Policy targets and statements of intent are at nought unless the intended output is actually achieved.

Here I propose a 50 point plan for solving our housing crisis. If half of these were implemented we’d be well on our way to doing so.

1          Speed up the Planning System:

2          Zone far more land than is required:

3          Increase Density:

4          Allow Planning where Infrastructure is underway, but not necessarily complete:

5          Allow smaller Apartments in city centers:

6          Speed up Probate:

7          Adjust the Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme:

8          Quick enactment of exemptions to allow vacant commercial units and over-the-shop premises to be used as residences without planning permission:

9          Implement the Vacant Site Levy:

10        Train Apprentices now:

11        Employ Bricklayers and other trades to build homes:

12        Stop blaming Airbnb:

13        Build long term social houses now: 

14        Invest more in good Mental Health and Addiction Services to help Rough Sleepers:

15        Improve the availability of lending for developers:

16        Keep and extend the Help-to-Buy scheme:  

17        Increase the Local Property Tax (LPT) to create more efficient use of existing resources:

18        Reduce Development Levies for new home construction:

19        Service more Land immediately:    

20        Rebalance Landlord/Tenant obligations (as opposed to rights):

21        Abolish Rental Pressure Zones:

22        Collect better statistics on housing:

23        Reduce Capital Gains Tax: 

24        Build on Government land, including semi state property:

25        Stop Excessive Irish Water charges and regulations:

26        Make Planning Permissions last longer:

27        Irish Water to Take on Developer Built Sewage Treatment Plants:

28        Build to rent:

29        Continue to Build Student Accommodation:  

30        Push Social Housing efficiencies:

31        Build More Nursing Homes (explore the possibility of providing tax breaks):

32        Set up a Development Bank:

33        Speed up Conveyancing:

34        Speed up Land Registry:

35        Allow Increased Building Site Working hours:

36        Introduce Targeted Tax Breaks:

37        Reduce the myriad of NGOs in Housing/Homeless services:

38        Cost benefit analysis on some onerous Building Regulations: 

39        Speed up the maintenance and upgrading of Local Authority properties ensuing faster turnaround of vacant social housing stock:

40        Reduce VAT on construction of homes (for a limited period):

41        Allow Credit Unions to provide mortgages:

42        Unlock the power of Credit Unions reserves to build homes:  

43        Reduce the number of car parking spaces required in urban residential developments:

44        Reconfigure the tax system in relation to Residential Investors:

45        Increase regional investment to counter balance Dublin:

46        Stop prioritsing FTBs- second time buyers, needing to move are in crisis also.

47        Introduce Better Assessment of Need under HAP:

48        Stop the State competing for second hand homes:

 

Con Nagle has a Master’s Degree in Economics, and 25 years’ experience buying, selling and letting new and second hand residential properties.

He is also the author of ‘Selling your Home’, and a director of Global Properties Ltd, estate agents in Cork, and member of IPAV, TEGoVA and the SCSI.