Rural areas pay price as Dublin recovers

‘Maybe we should just start listening to each other in this tiny country’

Áth Cliath or Gach Áit Eile? Do our views on what is right and natural change from the perspective of where we live? Photograph: Eric Luke

Áth Cliath or Gach Áit Eile? Do our views on what is right and natural change from the perspective of where we live? Photograph: Eric Luke

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 12:01

An entertaining sideshow of the elections was the stunned reaction of some Dublin media to the patchiness of rural broadband. Nearing midnight at a Co Longford count centre, several had to travel for miles to get a signal. Inside the European Parliament count centre in Castlebar, coverage ranged from limited to nonexistent. Broadband is as integral to modern life as a phone, but in rural Ireland you must never assume.

Such assumptions make the capital an attractive place to live and do business. If nothing else, the Dublin property bubble reinforces the old industry credo: location, location, location. And location equals cash. In the year to May, property prices outside Dublin increased by 1.8 per cent. In Dublin, the increase was 22 per cent. The average, mix-adjusted asking price for a home in Dublin is now 34 per cent higher than the national figure, according to Myhome.ie. That squares with trends seen at the height of the bubble.

The cash value of that gap is evident in bubble-era developments around the commuter counties. Scattered among the hapless, forced-out, first-time buyers are Dubliners who chose to exchange old, local authority, suburban houses for spacious, four-bed semis and a couple of cars.

So as well as a home, a house is an asset. In which case, surely those countless tax-funded services and amenities in the capital, those massively subsidised transport facilities, count for something in assessing cash value?

Yet last week, some Dublin Government TDs warned they would become “rebellious” if central funding for local authorities was diverted from Dublin councils towards rural areas. In other words, the city’s local authorities will hug their property tax windfalls (mostly a function of location and numbers) and they’re just not going to share.

What happened to the concept of the common good? Or clear public policy?

If even a small part of the rationale for a property tax is to deflate housing bubbles, does it not make sense for certain areas to pay more ?

A few weeks ago I suggested here that Dublin had a duty to at least acknowledge the existence of commuters before implementing traffic plans. The thrust of the robust, occasionally thoughtful, response was: “Suck it up. You made your choice. If you wanted hospitals, stadiums, galleries, work and handy bus and train hubs nearby, why did you choose to live in the country?” I get it. It’s a trade-off. (We’ll leave aside the dubious assumption that there is always a free choice or that the entire population should cram itself into the capital.)

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