Monday 24 October 2016

Housing proposals merit further action

Published 24/07/2015 | 02:30

Why should the State sit on valuable land banks in our main towns and cities when we have a chronic shortage of homes?
Why should the State sit on valuable land banks in our main towns and cities when we have a chronic shortage of homes?

The proposals from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) seem eminently reasonable, if the Government is serious about tackling the housing crisis.

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Why should the State sit on valuable land banks in our main towns and cities when we have a chronic shortage of homes?

The NESC makes the not unreasonable point that these lands could be released to developers if they were willing to provide certainty on rent. This would not only provide quality, affordable homes, but also help improve competitiveness.

While the Government is increasing investment in social housing, new homes for those in the private market are in short supply.

Radical new thinking is needed for the common good, the think-tank argues, and unless profound changes are made in how we deliver homes, we run the risk of returning to the boom-and-bust cycle of old, when developers dictated the pattern of development.

Getting this right is key. The job of the NESC is to advise. This valuable report should not end up on a shelf.

Coalition's moves on victims' rights welcome

For too long, the private property rights of offenders - or concerns they may be unduly interfered with - have taken precedence over the rights of victims of crime and their families.

That is why two initiatives published today will, if enacted, go some distance towards rebalancing the scales of justice in favour of victims.

Prompted by an agonising five-year legal battle between the family of the late businesswoman Celine Cawley and her recently released killer and husband Eamon Lillis, the Law Reform Commission has recommended new laws that will ensure victims of murder, attempted murder and manslaughter will retain 50pc of joint assets they shared with the partner who killed them.

Killers, as the surviving party, will be entitled to 50pc of joint assets under draft laws recommended by the Commission. But that percentage could be reduced to zero by a court if it is just and fair to do so.

This judicial discretion will not appease those who favour automatic forfeiture of offenders' assets, but it will strengthen the status of grieving relatives and provide greater clarity in the law.

Separately, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has published new heads of a consolidated bill to tackle the scourge of domestic violence.

Previously, it was feared that Ireland's constitutionally protected property rights were a key barrier to implementation of the gold standard Istanbul Convention to protect women and girls from violence, particularly its provisions on emergency barring orders. But the Government says it will no longer require a victim to have a greater or equal interest in the property than the perpetrator who is being barred.

Significantly, the bill will not only make it easier to secure interim barring orders, but it will also be possible for judges to bar a perpetrator from communicating with the victim by any electronic means.

Both initiatives require close scrutiny for any unintended consequences, but we cannot afford to delay action. Effective, adequately resourced implementation of Istanbul would stand as an important legacy for the Coalition.

Irish Independent

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