Sunday 17 November 2019

Time for new thinking on property market

ANYBODY living in our major cities will be familiar with the problem; large, draughty houses inhabited by one of two pensioners located close to small houses with growing families slowly going stir crazy. Both homeowners would happily swap but the stagnant, dysfunctional property market makes this impossible.

Governments must find a way of helping both households. Right now that isn't happening, according to property economist Ronan Lyons who brought out a new report yesterday.

Mr Lyons makes many points in his latest study but perhaps the most salient one was the market's failure to match the right accommodation to the right people.

To be sure, there are cultural reasons for this. Many people understandably decide to buy a house and stay put until they die. That's fine but people often decide to stay for other reasons. Some would happily leave their home if there were suitable apartments in their area. Others need help with the paper work.

At present families and the elderly are often forced to compete to live in the few areas which are still serviced by good transport links, decent hospitals and shops. A bias against property lending of any kind, and lack of imagination in many planning departments, means that smaller developers are often prevented from building in areas where there is high demand.

While prices and rents are rising in these areas, there is every reason to suspect prices will start to fall elsewhere in our cities as the banks finally force indebted landlords with buy-to-lets to sell up over the next few months. That could cause a glut of some types of house to come onto the market and depress prices still further. This will further exacerbate the two-track property market that is already such a feature of Irish life.

There is, in short, much to ponder in this latest report. The Government, which effectively controls the market through the banks and the National Asset Management Agency, needs to think hard about how best to serve the interests of all citizens in the years ahead.

Creative solutions on joblessness welcomed

THERE are many barometers that inform us of the state of the economy, but there is no more telling gauge, of how we are either progressing or regressing, than the unemployment statistics.

They, for obvious reasons, go to the heart of the matter. The unemployment rate is a good indicator of how much money there is sloshing around in an economy, how much the State has to dole out to bridge that gap and, perhaps more importantly, the emotional and psychological mood of the nation.

For nearly a half decade now we've seen the rate of joblessness rise in a relentless climb and it's made for depressing reading.

Granted, the last figures to hand – those for January of this year from the Central Statistics Office – showed a slight improvement.

They pointed to a marginal drop from 14.9pc to 14.6pc.

In other words, virtually static.

So any intervention by the State that is designed to help is welcome, even a modest one.

Today it has been revealed that tourist operators and shopkeepers will be able to get a subsidy from the Government for the hiring of seasonal workers, when they offer to take someone off the dole queue.

According to the architects of the scheme, it will unlock cash refunds every month of €1 in every €4 of the cost of taking on someone who is long-term unemployed.

Needless to say, this won't end our jobless crisis, but it does involve the sort of creative thinking that is necessary in coming to grips with it. So more of the same, please.

Irish Independent

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