Saturday 18 November 2017

real deal

the business of property by Sinead Ryan

One of the better tax incentives on the property side was the introduction of the Home Renovation Initiative (HRI) which killed two birds with one stone. The VAT back scheme allows improvement works from insulation to a full extension and gets builders, electricians and other contractors off the dole queues. It has meant that trader-uppers who couldn't afford to, could at least extend their existing home to make it more comfortable.

Now it's been announced that it will continue to run until the end of 2016. To date, 36,543 houses have qualified for re-fits with €566m being refunded. In all, 5,975 contractors registered under the system, all tax compliant and insured.

Build it and they will come, goes the mantra. Well, provide the tax incentive and they'll build it! Offering good schemes, which don't give away the farm, means that choice is returned to ordinary people.

However, my bugbear with HRI is that it becomes a little petty at the final hurdle. Although VAT is refunded on works spend from €4,405-€30,000, the 13.5pc return is given back over two years on a monthly basis. Bah, humbug! Why not do it in one go, Revenue? After all, you can't tell your contractor you'll pay him every four weeks.

Going private

Obviously it suits the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) to call for Nama's assets to be marketed more openly since its members are most likely to be the sellers, but its point is well made nonetheless. The controversial Project Arrow sale (and there are and have been others), reminds us that much of Nama's bundle of stock isn't fancy shopping centres or big office blocks; there's a chunk of ordinary, residential stock in there - flats and houses that are badly needed back on the market and available to regular punters.

With impressive haircuts of up to 70pc being made on the securitised debt, some lucky vulture funds are getting incredible deals for the simple quid pro quo of being cash rich - the rub is that the poor old sods who lost their home can't make a bid to buy it back.

Nobody is suggesting that s/he should get the same deal obviously, and it would be an administration nightmare that Nama mightn't appreciate, but are they not there to serve the taxpayer at the end of the day? Serving the ones on housing lists is providing a public service rather than just a money collection one.

If Joe Bloggs could buy back the house he lost at say, a modest 30pc cut, then he does the State some service, surely? Arrow has 2,402 properties in its bundle - half of them residential. If Nama makes them available in private sales, they can redeem a much higher price for them, for short-term admin costs.

Does the cap fit?

One of the most enviable and ludicrous notions in hit sit-com Friends was the notion that Monica and Rachel could live in a spacious two-bed loft in Manhattan on the wages of a chef and shop girl (okay, it was Ralph Lauren, but still). This was explained in the final episode with Monica yelling, "Thank God for Rent Controls!"

Will the uber-chic gals around Ireland be as thankful to Minister Alan Kelly when he brings in what he calls "Rent Certainty"? He claims it's not the same thing altogether, but it's not far off. Capping rents to follow the Consumer Price Index is meddling in a private market to an intolerable degree and won't solve the underlying problem of lack of housing stock. It's a feel-good election stunt.

Why doesn't the Government introduce a "Flights to the UK control" or a "Capped Cappuccino" price index? Because it considers airlines and coffee houses to be private markets it would be aghast at controlling. Housing though? Well, that's an obsession that hasn't gone away, you know.

Sunday Independent

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