Dan Boyle: Home Truths


From top: Minister for Housing Darrah O’Brien (left) with Peter McVerry at a construction project on Haddington Road, Dublin 4 where the Peter McVerry Trust will deliver 18 new social housing units; Dan Boyle

The government’s housing policy is starting to take shape. It is likely to increase supply significantly. However, because of conflicting objectives, it is also likely to miss out on key objectives.

The building of greater numbers of social housing units, after decades of neglect, will help dampen rising prices. A ramping up of cost rental, what the Green Party has promoted most strongly, should achieve something similar.

Where I feel the government’s strategy will achieve least is by placing too much of an emphasis on affordable housing.

In Ireland we have had a cultural attachment towards home ownership. This obsession has been why the development of property has become a touchstone of our economic being, often to the cost of having a more rounded, more diverse economy.

In recent decades Ireland has gone from having one of the highest levels of home ownership in the World, to now being under the European average. For some this is deemed to be a bad thing.

Mixed and balanced housing tenure should be the goal of any housing policy. We are still a journey away from that. What is making that a harder to journey is the clinging to of the belief that incentives benefit house buyers rather than property developers.

What taxation incentives have also done has been to direct building types of development other than residential housing.

Welfare for developers has given us more hotels, student accommodation and introduced us to the joys of co-living. All developed while a dearth of residential housing continued.

I’m not opposed to incentives, where such incentives have direct positive effect. What I would like to see incentivised would be to bring back unused, vacant and derelict properties back into housing stock. To seek these objectives would have a broader benefit of bringing City and town centres back to life.

The concern for Generation Rent would be better applied if we had less of an emphasis on home ownership, with much more of an emphasis on security of tenure.

Fair and affordable rents must be the policy goal, even above affordable mortgages. Government policy needs to promote this as the norm, not as some kind of runners up prize for the disappointed.

While we are at it maybe we could try to bring to an end the era of property porn. Rhapsodic prose celebrating additional zeros being added to property values has not served us well.

What it has done has made housing less attainable for more people. It has brought additional, but largely notional, wealth for an older generation many of whom live in housing that is much too large for their current needs.

Traditional housing policies have made housing people more difficult. They have created the instruments that are helping to ferment greater inequality.

Ultimately it is the economy itself that suffers. A population constrained by rents that are too high or mortgages that are too expensive, limits money being spent on anything else.

There are small signs of wanting to do things differently. But the movement is too slow, too tentative.

Demography demands that we do things differently. The real goal should be to own the issue rather than insisting that all of us should be preoccupied with owning property.

In baseball parlance that would be a home run.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


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15 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Home Truths

  1. Joe

    What Dan is arguing is part of the solution but ONLY if the ownership of rental properties remain in a marginal profit earning entity like state ownership. But as the Greenwash party has demonstrated every day in government is that being blue shirts on bikes, it will follow FF and FG orders, resulting in the wholesale building of ballymun style apartment blocks totally unsuitable for families, owned by Vulture funds owned by external companies exploiting their renter’s who will siphon the profits out of the country and pay bugger all tax to the state!

  2. Clampers Outside

    Isn’t bthe reason old buildings are not upgraded is because the cost of upgrades is more per unit than new builds.

    I’d love to see many of the old buildings in city centres brought back for residential use.

    Plus there’s the added problem of those who sit on such properties as they are valued for their location… CPOs on those rich enough to sit on them would be a great thing imo.

    1. johnny

      Converting older buildings into alternative uses is very cost ineffective for some uses,but not all.
      I’m do indoor farming,its not cost effective in that space,but converting to residential can and does work,often with government incentives,Apple is looking for 100,000 sq.ft. in Cork right now,you could nudge them into taking on a adaptive reuse of ‘older buildings’.
      Cheap renewal energy,clean water and high speed connections are critical going forward,most above is just noise.

  3. Geraldo

    Mortgage rates twice the EU average
    Vulture funds with zero tax liability on rental property
    A green party leader who can’t stay awake in work.

    And to top it off I wasted 5 minutes of my life reading Dan’s drivel.

    1. RT


      Turning my back on the Greens after a decade of voting for them as #1 or #2 preferences. My partner won’t be renewing their Green party membership when it lapses later this year, due to their propping up of FF-FG, their dire performance in first 6 months of govt and their well-documented internal rifts. Watch “Generation Rent” (to which I belong) pivot towards SF over the next few years because of the ongoing housing crisis, not because of republican idealism or any of the classic SF manifesto points

    1. ida

      Always the smart botty answer Dan, why don’t you deal with the 3 points I raised, all of which are valid, correct and within the power of the GP in government to change?

      “Fair and affordable rents must be the policy goal, even above affordable mortgages.”
      Why so? How can you have fair and affordable rents while mortgages are a rip off and while government apply PAYE tax rates on rental property?
      The most security a person can get is to own their own property, yet you seem to be against this. Why?
      The easiest way for government to help people achieve property ownership is to deal with the rip off that Irish mortgages are

      Demark: 0% mortgage fixed for 20 years
      Germany: 1.85% on average

  4. johnny

    current govt solutions include…..if only there was something,elected reps could do or SAY about this dodgy ‘scheme’…….lets hope they all get a happy ending.

    -Peter McVerry Trust confirmed to The Irish Times that it raised €1.6 million in charitable donations through the programme
    -He confirmed that under the scheme, four Chinese citizens donated €400,000 each to the Peter McVerry Trust.


  5. Gabby

    Lots or derelict sites could be brought into rebuilding schemes indeed. Empty and uncompleted houses on ‘ghost estates’ are found in towns and villages around the country and are a result of the crazy housing boom from the early 1990s until the financial bust of September 2008.
    How can the state create a housing dynamic where, as in France, Germany and other continental countries, people can rent flats for life securely at affordable prices?

    I like the second sentence in the article regarding government housebuilding strategy: “However, because of conflicting objectives, it is also likely to miss out on key objectives.”

    1. scottser

      most local authorities already employ a vacant homes officer, who identifies derelict and abandoned properties and distressed assets. they are usually vacant because of poor title and determining who has the authority to sell is not always clear. i understand the returns to the local authorities are low enough as they take far longer to acquire than normal open market transactions or portfolio sales do.

  6. dan

    “How can the state create a housing dynamic where, as in France, Germany and other continental countries, people can rent flats for life securely at affordable prices?”

    Because non corporate Landlords are not crucified with Tax.

    By the way, it’s not as rosy as you think in these Countries

    1. Gabby

      Those continental countries are socially better organised than Eire. Voluntary pension schemes are the norm and many lesser income citizens participate. Long term flat renters are protected against sudden rent increases etc. It is not so rosy for migrant ethnic groups, who are ghettoised and picked on by chauvinists and crypto-you-know-whats.

  7. V aka Frilly Keane

    While tis nice to finally see an Irish Politician mention long term tenures
    I have to say Dan
    I think you’re trying to mock us here as well
    The government’s housing policy is starting to take shape

    The policy is the exact same as the FG + Confidence & Supply one
    That the Green Party were forced fed in the PfG

    I have to say Dan, I’m as surprised and I am disappointed that the Green Party
    with all their sustainability and equality notions and promises
    haven’t ventured any discussion around Cooperative Housing & Differential Rent Group Schemes and Developments

    But then again, I’ve never heard a word of support out of ye for any activity under the Cooperative Movement ethos

    Gas, isn’t it

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