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Editorial: To avoid bubble we need builders back in business

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There is a housing shortage in Dublin

There is a housing shortage in Dublin

THINKSTOCK

There is a housing shortage in Dublin

For a country with an obsession with property, it is no great surprise to learn that once again we are in the middle of a housing shortage in Dublin, with the prospect of house prices rising by 10pc over the next two years.

Market watchers, who have observed the dysfunctional state of house building for a number of years, have already warned of a shortage of suitable family homes in the greater Dublin area.

The difficulty arises because, following the property collapse, house building came almost to a complete halt, and only now, six years on, are tentative steps being taken towards a recovery. Fewer than 1,400 houses were completed in Dublin last year and with a growing number of people planning to trade up or get on the 'property ladder', there is little wonder queues are now forming at sites and second-hand homes for sale in the suburbs.

The problem has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the fact that many skilled builders and tradesmen left the country, while in tandem there has been a slump in those opting for professional courses in quantity surveying, engineering and other building technologies.

A report on the housing market by the Irish Banking Federation has also identified an embedded urban/rural price divide. While it is predicted that prices in Dublin will rise substantially in the coming years due to a property shortage, a corresponding oversupply outside the capital could lead to further price falls. Presenting a report on the market, the Trinity College lecturer Ronan Lyons outlined the challenges facing policy makers and planners.

Of most concern is that a housing shortage and double-digit growth in prices will inevitably lead to another 'bubble'. That is something that must be avoided, while at the same time taking note that the needs of a growing population for housing have to be catered for if we are to have a functioning construction and property sector in the economy.

CLARITY AND INTEGRITY ARE VITAL IN HANDLING GARDA PROBES

Clarity, integrity, credibility – those are the qualities Taoiseach Enda Kenny declared are needed in relation to the gardai and the recent allegations concerning the force. All three elements appear to be singularly lacking in what we have heard, particularly in relation to the handling of grave issues surrounding the release on bail of a man who was later sentenced to life imprisonment after he admitted murdering Sylvia Roche Kelly in Limerick in December, 2007.

We now have retired judge John Cooke investigating events surrounding the alleged bugging of the GSOC and, since yesterday, senior counsel Sean Guerin investigating the events surrounding the dossier compiled by whistleblower Maurice McCabe and handed to the office of the Justice Minister Alan Shatter on January 23, 2012.

Various allegations contained in this dossier have at various stages gone through the hands of the Department of Justice, the Garda Commissioners, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman's Office, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Confidential Recipient.

The public at large is now understandably baffled by the various claims and counter-claims. We now have two investigations in train, with a third one pending should the Taoiseach deem it necessary upon receiving the report from Mr Guerin before Easter.

There is a widely held belief that it might have been wiser to abandon what Mr Kenny described as this "scoping exercise" and grasp the nettle with a proper commission of inquiry at this stage.

In the wake of various inquiries, some of which went on for years and at great expense to the taxpayer, there is an understandable reluctance among ministers to sanction another expensive tribunal of any sort.

It is to be hoped that the decision not to launch a full inquiry at this stage has been taken for pragmatic and genuine reasons and is not an exercise in protecting the position of the Justice Minister, Mr Shatter.

Irish Independent