Policy is useless unless builders start building
Published 10/03/2016 | 02:30
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith strongly disagreed with the conventional wisdom that politics is the art of the possible, as suggested by Bismarck. "It consists," he said instead, "of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."
From the disastrous to the unpalatable just about covers the policy spectrum as laid out by successive Governments on housing. The "disastrous" covers the bubble which ultimately led to the crash; the "unpalatable" is seen in all of our city streets, where people are sleeping out in the cold. Then there are the young and the put-upon locked out of the property market and driven further and further out into ever-expanding suburbs. The necessity of having to put together a deposit of €51,000 to buy your average home in the capital is beyond most. Against such a backdrop it is no great shock to see the ESRI critical of government policy.
We know that the problem is one of supply. Builders point to the costs driven by the State, such as the 13.5pc VAT, the very high level of professional fees required for certification and the necessity to allow for social housing. All of these factors turn the dream of owning a home into a nightmare for young families. But the ESRI is also concerned about the huge difficulties facing an ageing population and the lack of appropriate housing.
There appears to be little or no joined-up thinking when it comes to providing for the needs of the sector.
Options such as giving money to so-called 'empty nesters' to encourage them to move into smaller homes would only free up 26,000 houses nationally; this would barely meet the need of a single year. In any event, provision of suitable or alternative accommodation has not even been addressed. What use is the money if there is nowhere else to go? Clearly a greater variety of housing is required to meet the changing demographics. But until the Government - whatever Government - addresses the roadblocks on costs that are keeping developers from building, all the planning in the world will make no difference.
Gangland raids prove crime will never pay
This week once more saw gardaí with machine guns protecting mourners at a funeral. Separately yesterday, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), backed up by armed units, swooped on a number of homes seizing almost 30 top-of-the range cars and motorbikes.
In one raid, a betting slip for a €38,000 bet on a Liverpool football match was discovered. This speaks volumes about the proceeds of crime. According to gardaí, the reason for the raids was to find assets owned by David Byrne, who was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.
CAB is intent on closing in on the crime cartel of Christy Kinahan. It is hoped that the raids will reverberate in the underworld, sending out a clear signal that ultimately, crime doesn't pay.
The fact that the intelligence behind the CAB operation was backed up by input from the Emergency Response Unit, Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, Special Detective Unit, Dublin Metropolitan South Division, Dublin Metropolitan North Central Division, the Garda Síochána Technical Bureau and the Garda Operational Support Unit, and even the Revenue Customs Service, suggests that while organised crime may be a multi-headed hydra, the arms of the law are many, and escaping their clutches is far from a given.