Housing policy and rural and urban life
Sir, – Sinéad Lynch (September 18th) misses my point on one-off housing, which is that our one-off house planning laws are leading to the decline of rural villages and towns. Why? Because the people who build one-off houses are, in the main, rural people. In many cases there is no need to live on isolated farms – because while the occupiers may be the children of farmers, they are not farmers. They are gardaí, teachers, factory workers, tradespeople and business owners of all sorts. A few one-off houses would not be a problem, but the numbers are huge. The 2016 census shows that between 1991 and 2016 the national housing stock increased by over 840,000 dwellings. Approximately 280,000 of these houses were rural, one-off houses. If a one-off rural house was essential in a third of cases, then over 186,000 one-off houses could have been located in or near towns and villages. With an average occupancy of two or three persons per house, approximately a half a million rural people could have moved to towns and villages instead of isolated farms.
How many rural banks, pubs, petrol stations and post offices could have avoided closure with this population?
In Northern Ireland, where three times as many one-off houses were built as in the rest of the UK, they have come to their senses and are ending permission for one-off houses in general.
Ms Lynch is wrong when she writes about rural subsidies to urban areas. A few years ago, the IFA went ballistic when it became known that farmers paid only 1.3 per cent of all income tax. This near-zero contribution won’t pay for many Luas lines.
As for the motorways, landowners made a killing, with the highest land acquisition costs in Europe. And guess what, motorways run in both directions, so rural dwellers can use them, too!
In relation to local property tax (LPT), the equalisation fund effectively transfers €140 million every year from urban areas to rural areas. This is necessary because the relatively low value of one-off houses on farms produces insufficient LPT revenue to provide public services. Rural local authorities are killing off their own revenue by the proliferation of one-off houses, but don’t worry, urban dwellers will make up the shortfall. – Yours, etc,