Editorial: Housing crisis needs considered response
Published 23/08/2014 | 02:30
The prospect of tax breaks for landowners and developers is one that will alarm the public after six years of austerity wrought by a plain vanilla property bust. But such is the shortage of homes, primarily in Dublin and other large urban centres, that the Government is contemplating reducing or abolishing capital gains tax rates to encourage landowners to sell land for development.
The so-called windfall tax was designed to give something back to the taxpayer after lands were rezoned for housing.
But the rates are now deemed to be too exorbitant for them to be operative.
House building requires developers, and plans are also under consideration to waive or reduce development levies in existing planning permissions as well as imposing levies on undeveloped prime sites in cities and towns.
Strong, prompt policy levers are required to meet the surge in housing demand.
But caution must also be applied to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past when demand vastly outstripped supply.
The Government must, for example, prevent hoarding by landowners and developers and a vacant or derelict site tax would encourage the use of prime sites.
The reduction or suspension of development contributions could also ease the housing shortage.
One thing we cannot do is put the issue of creating housing stock on the long finger, or leave it to the vagaries of the market. Government intervention is required to tackle affordability, but sustainable communities must be at the core of any new initiative to re-establish a properly functioning housing sector.
Families who could not afford to live in large urban centres were marooned during the boom in suburbs that had little or no access to essential public services.
Others found themselves living in homes built on flood plains in defiance of any planning or human logic.
We simply cannot afford to allow development to happen, anywhere, at any price.
Equally, we cannot convert a housing bust into a spiralling housing shortage crisis.
Ebola scare a test of national protocols
There was a collective sigh of relief when the Ebola virus was ruled out as the cause of death of Donegal native Dessie Quinn. The untimely death of the father of one is a tragedy for his family. Mr Quinn, who was being treated for suspected malaria, had returned to Ireland in recent weeks after working in Sierra Leone where there has been an outbreak of that deadly virus.
It has so far claimed more 1,400 lives in West Africa.
Mr Quinn's death tested national protocols that have been put into place to quickly establish if someone has Ebola and to protect healthcare staff and others who may come into contact with suspected carriers.
The risk of contracting Ebola is extremely low and, experts say, would involve very close personal contact with the infected individual or their body fluids for there to be any risk at all.
However, in an age of global travel, it is vital that Ireland has strong guidelines in place to protect those within our territory as well as supporting global efforts to contain the spread of the disease.