Fianna Fáil and the builders – a case of amnesia?
Sir, – Barry Cowen (September 7th) makes great claims about how the building industry is able and willing to solve the housing crisis if only the rate of VAT was cut (but not the builders profit margin, of course). Then as if by magic reducing VAT will see all these builders who’ve been hiding away reappear, like the Great Earl of Kildare galloping across the Curragh, and all the other problems linked to a lack of housing will be swept away as new roads and sewers and schools pop up all over the country.
I’d love to see him publish the research he and his party did to come to the conclusion that the private sector building industry, motivated solely by profit, could possibly ever provide for the needs of the social housing sector(which is based on covering cost) when in every other country within the EU that doesn’t have a social housing crisis, the private and social housing building sectors are completely separate because the end goals of each are incompatible.
The big problem the Irish system can’t deal with, and which Mr Cowen doesn’t address, is that successful social housing requires a proactive government system that provides the infrastructure and services people need before the houses are built. In Ireland, the services and infrastructure are never in place before the houses. So why should anyone believe Mr Cowen or his builder friends now?
No doubt Fianna Fáil know plenty of builders who can throw up all manner of substandard houses that soon become damp and need remedial repair work and are not connected to any of the services the people living in them need. How depressing that we would be so lazy and stupid to have learned nothing from our past mistakes.
Anyone with a brain can solve the housing crisis on paper. The problems start because local councillors who want to be part of the solution can’t make the required decisions because every vested interest against social housing, which is usually the same people demanding “something must be done, just not where I live” then pressure the TD to stop the development. Or they resent somewhere getting a new road or school. Added to which of course is the face national government is utterly incapable of the joined-up thinking required to tie all the different strings together.
Mr Cowen doesn’t explain how a government with him in it would be any different. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It appears the amnesia treatments in Fianna Fail have failed to take hold. Barry Cowen in his response to Fintan O’Toole (“Fianna Fáil has a bad case of builder’s bum”, Opinion & Analysis, September 5th) claims that Part V (Housing Supply in the Planning and Development Act) would have delivered much additional social housing, except he forgets how Fianna Fáil enabled developers to buy out an exemption from the social housing requirement in Part V.
Mr Cowen talks up the need for a return of social and affordable housing yet ignores that it was his Fianna Fáil governments that turned the tap off for our local authorities building social housing from 1997 onward. In 2000, Dublin City Council social housing production was a paltry 184 units. Units not houses. It then followed a roller-coaster of sudden small spurts followed by dramatic declines. It increased for a few years to 2003 to 852, before being nearly halved in 2004 to 493, rose again to average of 850, before being cut again in 2006 to 523, and again it rose to average 800 for a couple of years before being the budget was drastically cut in 2009 leading to just 237 units being produced in 2010. All this happened long before the Fine Gael/Labour government took office, and indeed most of this depletion of the volume of social housing happened during the property boom when the State had money for all sorts of vanity projects.
A return to that level of activity would still leave us well behind what is needed.
The developers are claiming that they can’t build and make a profit due to the large price paid for the land they’re holding – large land prices that directly resulted from Fianna Fáil’s property bubble.
Fianna Fáil claims to have learned the lessons of the past, yet it’s clear that most of their public representatives can’t even remember the past, never mind learn from it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It looks as if the Fianna Fáil response to the housing crisis is a return to the Galway tent. – Yours, etc,