Saturday 24 March 2018

We need a housing tsar to rebuild the market

An imaginative mix of policies is crucial to resolve the conundrum of negative equity, writes Marc Coleman

The leadership of a Lemass. The vision of a Whitaker. The expertise of Peter Bacon. And the political equivalent of Michael O'Leary's daring. Our housing market is on its knees but if a Standard & Poor's report is to be believed, prices have troughed and recovery is possible, but only if someone with the right abilities is put in charge of a clear recovery plan.

The housing market will not and should not drive our economy or government finances ever again. But if hundreds of thousands of people are to be lifted out of negative equity, if families trying to raise families in shoe-box apartments are to be given any hope of trading up so they can live proper lives -- and if consumption in our economy is to stabilise -- then the housing market must at the very least be put back on its feet. That means appointing a Housing Tsar. Someone, preferably a minister, with the brains, the guts and the brief to drive a thorough, well-researched agenda of recovery.

The other extreme of what got us into our current crisis, the market now is just as damaging and distorted as it was during the boom. Then, prices were talked into the stratosphere. Now they're being talked through the floor. Like a ratchet screwdriver moving one way but not the other, stamp duty bled the market on the way up and stopped it working on the way down.

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