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Tax on vacant properties could solve housing crisis

Letters to the Editor


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The news that Ireland has the 10th highest housing vacancy rate in the world makes for depressing reading. The 183,000 vacant homes (excluding holiday homes) could solve our homelessness problem 30 times over and dramatically reduce the price of houses on the open market for those who cannot currently afford to buy them.

Many of these vacant properties are owned by global property and hedge funds who seek to bid up rental and purchase prices by constricting supply. At least a third are owned by older people who can no longer live in them and who need to be incentivised to make them available on the open market.

The Government claims it needs more information on why these houses are vacant before it can introduce a vacant property tax.

This is a shallow excuse to continue to favour vacant and often absentee property owners over those who need homes to live in now. It’s like saying they need more information on why people work before it can introduce an income tax.

If a vacant property tax brought even half these 183,000 properties to market, it could reduce house prices and solve our housing crisis almost overnight. It’s time the Government showed some urgency on this issue and incentivised these homeowners to make their properties available to those who need them most.

It’s not too late to include a vacant property tax in the Finance Bill for next year. If the Government fails to do so, it must be replaced by one that will. Our young people can wait no longer.

Frank Schnittger

Blessington, Co Wicklow


Why do anti-vaccine protests so often involve violence?

As a young university student, I went on a number of protests, against a prime minister, in favour of “solar, not nuclear” and, as a teacher, for better wages. These protests were peaceful, with a few speakers and a lot of shouting of slogans; afterwards, we tended to wander off for coffee or a beer.

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So why have the anti-vaccination brigade’s protests so often involved violence and legal threats?

The anti-vax groups in many countries are shown on TV as being involved in violence against police, damage to property and legal threats – without any validity – against organisations. I understand and support the right to protest, even if your message is wrong, but why the violence?

Is it because your message has been rejected and you cannot convince people with reasoned arguments that you resort to unreasonable violence?

Dennis Fitzgerald

Melbourne, Australia


Emergency plans reveal a failure by policymakers

The contingency plans outlined in the media over the weekend (‘Energy emergency plan: businesses to be given an hour to prepare for blackouts and family homes to be disconnected’, Sunday Independent, October 24) demonstrate a persistent failure by policymakers, regulatory authorities and system operators to properly cater for voluntary demand response within the energy market structures in Ireland.

Effectively, the plans outlined are “load-shedding” – cutting off customers to avoid widespread blackouts in the power system.

Properly incentivising customers to voluntarily reduce demand at times of grid stress, in a way that doesn’t harm their business, should avoid the need to enforce power cuts. It’s clear we need decisive policy and regulatory backing to allow customers to play their part in our energy system, preferably not as part of a blackout.

Siobhán McHugh

CEO, Demand Response Association of Ireland

Britain would have no qualms over quitting North

I absolutely agree with James Woods (‘Service added legitimacy to partition of this island’, Letters, October 26).

President Michael D Higgins was right not to attend an event which, in essence, celebrates the partition of Ireland.

Although English and nominally Protestant, I would like to see a united Ireland with Sinn Féin given the opportunity to govern Catholic and Protestant alike without violence.

In reality, Britain would quit Northern Ireland at the first opportunity.

With support for Scottish independence in the balance, London has no qualms about abandoning Northern Ireland to maintain unity in Britain.

Demographically, Northern Ireland is on course for a Catholic majority, so reunification via referendum is a real prospect in the not-too-distant future.

Sinn Féin faces the reality of the responsibility of one day having to govern the whole of Ireland and to maintain the peace where Protestants are a legitimate part of the process.

I wish them well in the task.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London, England

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