Rising House Prices
Sir, - The Workers' Party Trade Union Group welcomes the decision by the Government to investigate the soaring cost of housing. It is now recognised by many that if this trend is allowed to continue it will have a serious effect on our social fabric. House prices have increased massively since 1992 and this year will see an increase of 20 per cent. Yet workers' wages have been tied to the average inflation rate.
This is not the first time that a Fianna Fail government has investigated the cost of housing. In 1973 a commission under Justice Kenny found that the major factor was the price of building land. That is as true today as it was in 1973. It recommended that the price of land for development should cost no more than its use value plus 25 per cent.
At present the solution being put forward by spokespersons for the Construction Industry Federation is to rezone more land. This, they argue, would bring down the price of building land. But the fact remains that as long as the land remains in the hands of a small number of speculators they can dictate the cost of sites.
It is a nonsense for builders to blame high wages for the cost of houses. The figures they quote are figures which they pay to subcontractors. Indeed, wage costs have fallen over the past 10 years as most builders employ no more than three or four men directly. Therefore, they have much reduced out-goings by way of pensions, holiday pay, PRSI, etc. The recent claim by some builders that there is a 10 per cent cost towards safety is a joke, as anyone visiting a building site in Co Dublin can see. The majority of builders there do not have canteen or sanitary facilities, never mind ensuring proper safety standards.
While the Government's interest in the cost of housing is welcome it is highly unlikely that a Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat government will take action to control the price of building land. The people who own land have a huge influence on this and previous governments. But we call on all trade unionists and all potential house purchasers to demand the implementation of the Kenny Report as the only effective way of controlling the price of houses. - Yours, etc.,
Michael Finnegan,Chairperson, John Dunne,Secretary,
Workers' Party Trade Union Group, Dublin.