Bryan Wall: Property Tax And Class

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From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan; Bryan Wall

The government’s policies regarding housing continue to deliver dividends. Not dividends in the social sense in which people will benefit from affordable social housing.

If someone is unable to afford a home, or even unable to afford to continue living in their home, then so be it. The market has spoken and its vagaries must be followed otherwise the very economic principles upon which our society is built will collapse.

At least, that’s the story that stalwart neo-liberals such as Leo Varadkar and members of his cabinet tell us.

They may put on a show of caring for the average person who struggles to pay their bills and afford their rent or mortgage payments, but him and his ilk are completely removed from the reality of everyday existence.

It is bad enough to have to see the poor on the streets from a distance. God forbid that they might have to see them up close and be forced to pretend to care about them.

Despite the rampant propaganda machine that the government utilises on a daily basis, it is clear to see what they really think about economic and social justice in Ireland.

Before Christmas Leo Varadkar suggested that any property tax that is paid should stay in the area in which it is paid. Obviously the consequences of this would be the further immiseration of less affluent areas of the country whilst the more well-to-do areas would see a boost in their services; and this all overseen by the government.

A policy such as this, regardless of the aforementioned propaganda campaign which tries to push the image of a caring and compassionate Taoiseach on us, shows a clear distinction in terms of politically, who matters and who does not.

In more recent comments the Taoiseach reiterated his position, stating that the idea of the wealthy keeping their property taxes in their own area “makes sense to me.”

Going one step further, however, is his Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan.

Apparently attempting to outflank him from even further to the Right, she has suggested that the wealthy should pay less property tax. She stated that she “would like to see a lower rate in areas with the highest house prices.”

People living in these areas “should be entitled to reliefs as they could be most affected.” With the average price of house in TD Madigan’s constituency currently sitting at just over €600,000, it quickly becomes apparent what any quid pro quo would be if her suggestion is put into practice.

Like her boss, she is cut from the same cloth. She comes from a privileged background and, like Leo Varadkar, was privately educated.

We often scoff at the politicians across the Irish Sea who were educated in Eton, and the ideological indoctrination which takes place there. Apparently we are unaware the same practices are replicated in the Irish context.

So, the intention is for all of this to pay dividends in the form of re-election when the time comes or, in the short-term, the success of their fellow party members in the coming local elections.

Advocacy of and for the middle and upper classes is a requisite for their electoral success. In terms of market orthodoxy, those who can pay for it can lead a good life, in part by ensuring the appropriate political party, and the appropriate people, are in charge of policymaking.

Those who can’t ensure this simply have to count themselves lucky that they do not suffer even more. After all, this is an economically prosperous country we live in.

Our housing policies have been left in the hands of those whose idea of economic misfortune is the creation of massive profits as opposed to obscene profits. How housing affects the majority of people is a non-issue given that it is so beyond the realm of the limits of their empathy.

Others have had to take it upon themselves to try and combat this lack of compassion on the part of the government.

David Hall, for example, the CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, has stated that the government consists of “vulture lovers”, a reference to the various vulture funds that have bought mortgages from a number of Irish banks over the past few months.

The government, he says, has been “cosying up to vultures” instead of ensuring a more equitable housing policy that isn’t dictated by the unwavering pursuit of profit.

Mr Hall has set up a non-profit called i-Care Housing, which aims to keep people who are in arrears in their homes by purchasing them at current market values and then renting them back to the owners.

Thus far nineteen families have been saved from eviction under the scheme, with another 571 having been given granted approval to have their mortgages bought by i-Care.

I recently spoke to Mr Hall regarding the government’s policies on housing. When asked if he thought the government could tackle the housing crisis given its current make-up and the comments made by both Leo Varadkar and Josepha Madigan, he was quite clear.

There is, he said, “No chance they can tackle it.”

Furthermore, the property tax comments show exactly what the government thinks.

Mr Hall said:

“When the most senior politician says money should stay locally and a minister moves to protect the wealthiest it’s game over.”

Like Mr Hall, the housing activists around the country are aware of the same facts and comments as he is. Connolly Youth in Cork are also taking matters into their own hands given the government’s lack of action or accountability.

In August last year the group took over a vacant building in the city. They cleaned and renovated it as best they could, rechristening it as Connolly Barracks.

When I spoke to Alex Homits, the General Secretary of Connolly Youth, he told me that the comments made by Varadkar and Madigan are “merely further flavour and evidence for us to demonstrate that Ireland is run for a certain socio-economic grouping of people; a slim minority.”

Regarding solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis, I suggested that perhaps direct action in terms of occupying vacant or abandoned properties could present a more egalitarian way of providing housing.

Mr Homits told me that this would not be a long-term solution. However, he added:

“direct action serves the purpose of highlighting the housing crisis and challenging private landlords and the state”

It would also serve another purpose: That of “providing short-term housing solutions to those desperately in need.” The only permanent solution, he told me, would be “mass appropriation” and/or “construction of universally acceptable public housing.”

For everyone concerned then, despite the protests and commentary over the last year, the government continues to ignore the issue and instead clampdown on protest and dissent.

Leo Varadkar and his government are very well aware of the anger engendered by them because of their policies and consistent moves to protect the wealthy, the banks, and the vulture funds.

Accordingly, the need for the infliction of violence on their behalf by mercenaries, the Gardaí, or both, is more or less assured.

The evictions at Frederick Street in September and Roscommon in December are just the physical manifestation of economic policies designed to immiserate the many in order to further augment the coffers of the wealthy. To those unable to keep a roof over their heads it is obvious whom the government serve.

Given the current structure of mainstream Irish politics, radical change is unlikely to appear. That is because it would mean challenging the accepted narratives of capitalism and the free market. It would mean that politicians would be held accountable for policies which result in the suffering and sometimes death of their constituents.

Radical change, therefore, is only ever likely to come from the ground up, especially once people realise that they can take their lives and futures into their own hands and out of the hands of those who care naught for them. It will never appear in the hallowed halls of The King’s Hospital or Mount Anville.

A fight for the basic necessities, such as the right to have a roof over one’s head, puts the government and their patrons on the defensive. From here we can position ourselves to tackle even greater injustices in our society.

And when the government responds, all it will ensure is that “The stones they throw will fall at their own feet.”

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

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15 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: Property Tax And Class

  1. Cian

    [Josepha Madigan]has suggested that the wealthy should pay less property tax.
    Not true. She has suggested that those in expensive houses should pay a lower rate of tax – but they will still end up paying more money than those in less expensive houses.

    If the rational for property tax is that is it is to go to the local council to pay for local services – they why should someone in an expensive house pay more that someone down the road in a cheaper house? Do people in expensive houses use the libraries more? do they need more street-lights? Do they recycle and/or create more waste? do they use the housing services more? or are they more likely to be flooded? Do they use more of the parks?

    Why should a person in Dublin 6 struggling to pay a mortgage pay five times are much as a culchie that owns a 5-bed on 4 acres in Leitrim?

  2. Col

    The real problem here is that Josepha Madigan has objected to housing developments in her constituency as it would negatively impact house prices (I can’t find a link to the articles now).
    So she wants to keep house prices high. But she thinks that LPT rates on expensive houses are unfair (separate debate).
    Madigan wants to have the best of both worlds and that’s just not possible or fair.

  3. A Person

    Bryan if you are going to write an article re housing, please do some research on Approved Housing Bodies and the work they do (not just the recent effort by Mr Hall). The mortgage to rent scheme has been around for ca. 5 years and has provided up to 1000 homes to people struggling to pay their mortgages, certainly way more than the 19 suggested in your article.

    1. Frilly Keane

      Indeed

      As too has Voluntary Assisted Sales to Voluntary Housing Assocs
      Which have been around for like decades
      And the preferred option of 2 main Street banks
      Both of whom will settle for way way less than MV for a solution

      Ye’ll know
      If anyone paid attention
      I have a difficulty with the current MTR scheme demanded by Eoghan Murphy’s Housing Dept/ Conor Skehan’s Housing Agency

      I don’t agree with the Mortgage Holder(s) surrendering their property to the Bank
      The bank who get to dictate the selling price (deliberately delayed and delayed to get increased MMVs)
      And get to pick the buyer
      Which shouldn’t surprise anyone if the lucky buying Voluntary Housing Assocs is funded by the bank that just got a property voluntarily surrendered to them
      For NOTHING

      But hey wtf would I know
      173 cases transferred by way of VAS or under the previous MTR regime
      Most
      like 140+ of them pro-bono
      But as one of yere preferred columists says
      I’m a psychopath

      Incidentally
      I am recognised within the Insolvency Service and the Courts Service and the Central Bank and a number of other professional bodies as the go to on MTR solutions
      But shur’
      WTF would I know
      I refer all calls now to the Apollo crowd or to Mr Hall

      “The State gazumping local Voluntary Housing Assocs” is what Eoghan Murphy’s MTR regime has been called by a group, a group who I would genuinely swear are the real experts

      Me? If ye’re interested
      It’s another bank bailout

      But hey wtf would I know

      Didn’t I write about Mr Hall and i-care a while back
      I dunno
      It was over a year ago
      Maybe it was all guff
      It was nowhere near a long as this one above
      So maybe t’wasn’t really real like
      And I’m a Psychopath
      So there’s that

  4. SydneyT

    Madigan has raised a fair point in my opinion.
    So many areas in Dublin are becoming gentrified and with that comes higher property prices. Raising property taxes on people who are originally from these areas could in some cases push them out of their own neighbourhoods.
    Similarly, young families from more affluent areas who have worked their butts off to buy a place in or near their neighbourhood are being penalised by these increased property taxes. They are already paying the higher level of income tax. How much do people want to see the middle squeezed?

  5. fluoride pickled paddys

    To the sociopathic global investor
    When investing in ireland please consider the market and the opposition of the natives..
    the irish resistance movement consist of a economically uneducated populis. there main tactic is to keyboard protest, cafe stool protest, and barstool protest. to bitch and moan to their friends who normally have a less understanding of the tactics of the vulture capitalist that descended on the irish taxpayer these friends normally indicate to there moaning friends that they don’t understand that they are being financially raped and cant take any more of the moaning so they start to yawn. they then after drink has been consumed might sing songs that were written by real rebels about real rebels who fought and died for this country and that’s about as much protest you will receive in ireland….. so if your looking to make an aristocracilly fortune out of the dumb paddys the streets and the political landscape is paved with gold, all you need is controle of the gardi the banks the politicians and the media, and then it’s just a matter of stack your cash and run. its as safe as houses……. . Ireland for sale will accept potatoes…

  6. Panty Christ

    The market value of a house is not an accurate metric to gauge the wealth of the person that owns the house

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