THE chronic shortage of family-sized homes now facing the greater Dublin area – and, to some extent, in Cork and Galway cities – is the direct result of the greed of local authorities and the interference in the market by successive Fianna Fail-led governments that maintained tax incentives for property types no one wanted.
Local and central government policy over many years meant that, in the latter stages of the property boom, Ireland was churning out tens of thousands of homes annually that nobody wanted to live in – apart from the eastern European construction workers who had come here to build them.
When city families wanted family-sized semis, we were instead piling up stacks of tiny shoeboxes in less-desirable city and suburban areas – fuelled by ridiculous tax incentives.
Introduced to encourage city-centre revival in prior bad times, tax incentives for investor-led apartment developments were maintained until the end of the boom, even as property prices were increasing by double-digit percentages each year. The incentives continued because pro-development government parties were receiving big contributions to their coffers.
In the late '90s, local authorities (which had formerly charged development levies of €2,000 per unit built) suddenly realised they had a cash cow to milk. They cranked up the levies, in some cases up to €30,000 per dwelling.
To further capitalise on their cash earnings, local authorities did away with the long-standing '10 houses to the acre' formula.
By increasing densities and insisting on more apartments in each scheme, they could vastly crank up the unit numbers on site, and their earnings.
Ultimately, the boom-time actions of local authorities and government meant that the tap on affordable new family homes was long ago turned off.
By mid-boom, city dwellers who wanted semis instead got shoebox apartments, while the semis they wanted so badly were being built in remote fields in the middle of nowhere. Then the crash kicked in.
With few new family homes constructed in our cities for a decade and almost none for five years, what did we expect?