Wednesday 17 January 2018

Happy homeowners becoming part of an 'old' community

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Tom Burke
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Tom Burke
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Maureen and Ryan are happy homeowners. They have bought a new house in an estate on the outskirts of a Dublin town or suburb, but it could be close to any other city, town or village. They've paid €300,000, but as first-time buyers their plight has been eased through the €15,000 they got under the Government's Help-to-Buy scheme, which is now under review by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

The €300,000 price tag includes between €12,000 and €15,000 in development levies to pay for the provision of roads, water, parks and community facilities, which will probably be really good, because their local authority does things well.

While the new estate is still a bit raw, it will only improve as the supermarket, shops and school are built. The council is in discussions with Dublin Bus to get a service along the 2km road which connects the estate with the local town, which will be useful for the kids coming home from school.

Ryan's sister Mary and her boyfriend Terry have also bought in the area for the same price, but they've got an old shop in the middle of the town they're converting back to a house. They're having a hard time of it.

They couldn't get a residential mortgage to buy the place, and had to get a pretty expensive commercial loan with guarantees from Terry's dad. Then they had to get planning permission to change the use of the shop from commercial to residential, which obliged them to pay professional fees and local authority charges. They will also have to pay commercial rates until the property is delisted and the fees no longer apply, and there's a charge for that too.

What really stung them was that they had to pay over €12,000 as a development contribution for the permission. "Our entire budget for the kitchen!", wails Terry.

They still reckon it'll be worth it, though. The crèche and schools are within easy walking distance. Great shops, a vet for Barbara the dog, a GP and pub are nearby. The bus stop is a two-minute walk away, and Terry can cycle to the train station in five minutes. He'll be in Dublin for work on the fastest train in 20 minutes.

They feel a bit cranky they have to pay so much to make use of all of these existing facilities which have already been paid for out of public money. Out in the sticks, Maureen and her lot will need new schools, buses and a raft of other services, not to mention shops, crèches, vets and pubs, who may put the existing ones in the village centre out of business.

It seems perverse to say we want to bring life back into town and village centres, while making it so expensive and troublesome for the likes of Mary and Terry. Meanwhile, the people in the new houses at the edge of town laugh all the way to the bank.

"Never mind," says Mary, "in the long term, we're still ahead" - as she and Terry, Barbara and the kids walk to school along with their new neighbours. They're part of the community now.

Irish Independent

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