State backing for home ownership 'at end'


STATE SUPPORT for the principle of home ownership is at an end after almost 100 years, a national housing conference has heard.

Encouraging people to buy their homes had been seen by the State as a social good, as well as an economic one, but there was now a definite shift in policy, UCD sociology professor Tony Fahey said.

Tenant purchase schemes were dying out and local authorities were no longer offering loans to private buyers. The policy now is households need to be assisted by the State if they can’t afford to rent, not if they can’t afford to buy.

“It had been an article of faith for almost 100 years that home ownership was a social good and should be supported by the State . . . The historic roll the State played in putting up capital for housing won’t be repeated.”

Prof Fahey was speaking at the Respond! housing association conference on the need for a national housing plan.

Aidan Culhane, special adviser to the Department of the Environment, said it was a good time to consider the future of housing, but “people should be very careful what they wish for” in seeking a national housing plan.

“What would a national housing plan have looked like in 2007? What would it have looked like in 2000, when the conventional wisdom was the problem of rising house prices was down to the lack of zoned land?”

Mr Culhane said he hoped a national housing plan devised today would be humane, sustainable and considered, “but I doubt it”.

Respond! director Fr Pat Cogan said the lack of a comprehensive national housing plan was one of the principal causes of the recession. The housing crisis was being seen as a consequence of the recession when it was instead a cause.

“In not devising a national housing plan the Government is reacting exactly the same way as previous governments who let this crisis happen,” he said.

The Government was relying on housing agencies to provide housing for the future because the State could not raise the money to build houses. “Expecting housing agencies to deliver future housing stock is optimistic in the extreme when housing agencies have also to go to the banks to raise money.”

Senior planner with Limerick County Council Gerry Sheeran said a national housing plan needed to deal with both private and social housing. Development should focus on “brownfield” sites, vacant lands or derelict buildings within cities and towns instead of suburban or rural greenfield sites, and a stop should be put to the growth of one-off housing.