‘Everyone has a right to a home’

Sir, – Dermot Desmond's analysis gives a financier's view of the failure of the housing market ("Everyone has a right to a home – here is how it can be done", Opinion & Analysis, March 7th).

That the market is driving the provision of homes is a fundamentally flawed approach has evaded our governments for years.

In supporting this belief in the market, government has through ministerial guidelines, taxation policy and strategic housing development planning reduced standards, increased densities and reduced social obligations.

This has led to increased profits, rents and land values for speculation.

The financialisation of the housing market has failed to produce any level of affordable housing and must be challenged in line with Mr Desmond’s suggestions if we are to find any solution.

For more than a decade, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has been urging government to address the housing needs of a changing, growing population through measures similar to those described by Mr Desmond, on the basis that “housing is a basic need and a core responsibility of civil society”.

The re-use of buildings has always been supported by architects for social reasons as well as for reasons of sustainability. We have long argued for a site-value tax, which would help to address empty property and land-hoarding. We seek appropriate high densities for Ireland to create sustainable mixed communities, rather than excessive densities which only profit developers and landowners.

The uncertainties and inconsistencies of the planning system serve only to further delay the production of homes because objective planning criteria are often interpreted in different ways or are changed by ministerial directive.

The skills needed to build homes are in short supply and we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. The home-owner and home-renter should be protected.

We have good people embedded in the system of decision-making – they just need the support of a government that will make the hard decisions. The first of those is for government to accept that the market will not solve the challenge. The second is to change the belief that all investment in housing should be off the balance sheet of our national income.

It is not complicated. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Congratulations to John Daly (Letters, March 11th) for calling out the craven behaviour of our politicians who continue to facilitate windfall profits from land rezoning by not implementing the Kenny report of 1973.

No government has even been willing to test the constitutionality of doing so, still less put the issue to a referendum.

In Sweden, in the 1980s, an equally simple solution was put in place.

Only land that was owned by the municipality could be rezoned and the land could be acquired at a small premium over agricultural value.

This facilitated good planning so that facilities were always in place before the first residents moved in.

It is not that complicated. – Yours, etc,