Housing plan: ‘The idea we can catch up by 2030 isn’t going to help people now’

‘The State is artificially interfering with the market’, says one would-be first-time buyer

Would-be first time buyer, Rory Fuller doubts that the Government can build 300,000 new homes by 2030, but he is in no doubt that it needs to do more, and quicker.

“Building 300,000 by 2030 – that’s a long time away for people looking for houses now, so the idea we can catch up by 2030 isn’t going to help people now – we need a more radical approach,” says the TV cameraman.

Faced with housing pressures in the 1960s, the British Government built a greenfield city, Milton Keynes, which is now home to 230,000 people in Buckinghamshire, about 70km from London.

“We should be looking at greenfield sites rather than zoning an area and letting some farmer making a fortune and developers tell them what they are going to build,” he declared.

A Virgin Media News cameraman in Cork, Mr Fuller (46), who is single, thought two years ago that he would get a house in Douglas on Cork city's southside.

The vendors had set an asking price of €395,000 for the four bedroom semi-detached house. He placed several bids, before settling at €418,000, but the bid languished for over ten months from autumn 2018 to autumn 2019.

Eventually, the vendors decided they wanted €420,000. Having spoken with the auctioneer, he sought a few days to think over his next move, but the sellers accepted a bid of at least €420,000 within days.

Unlike many, Mr Fuller has a good landlord, though he has spent up to €80,000 in rent over the last 15 years. While he has been a prudent saver, he is at a disadvantage in bidding battles with couples.

“[They] can save more and borrow more,” he says, adding that estate agents have told him in advance that he was “up against couples”, with the realisation that prices could “end up €50,000 above where it started”.

However, his biggest competitor is not couples, but rather the State, since councils are buying up social and affordable housing in private estates and spurring prices.

“The law is forcing the developer to sell 20 per cent of an estate for social housing. If 20 per cent of a 100-house estate is already gone, that means there is even greater competition for the remaining 80 houses among private buyers,” he said.

“Councils need to start building social houses themselves. Surely, they can build them more cheaply than the private developer [since] they won’t be paying a 30 per cent profit to the private developer?

“The State is artificially interfering with the market,” he says, “They should withdraw and start building social housing themselves and let the private housing market find its own natural level”.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times