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Small Housesholds Left Out In Cold By One-Size-Fits-All Policy, Lorcan Sirr Dec 2016

Small Housesholds Left Out In Cold By One-Size-Fits-All Policy, Lorcan Sirr

Media

In Ireland, homeowners can pay up to 31% of their after-tax income on their mortgage, and the situation is worse if you are a single-person mortgage holder. That’s according to figures released by AIB mortgage brand EBS and DKMEconomic Consultants last month.


You’Ll Like The Tenancies Bill And Poppintree Build, But Not A Lot, Lorcan Sirr Nov 2016

You’Ll Like The Tenancies Bill And Poppintree Build, But Not A Lot, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Two things exercised my brain this week, both of which reminded me of a late, lamented magician. The first is the government’s Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016. This is the bill that will send planning applications for 100 or more residential homes directly to An Bord Pleanala. As I have said before, this will not be the panacea for a perceived problem, mostly because the problemdoes not exist. In 2015, 985 appeals in relation to residential developments were made to An Bord Pleanala, and about 75% of judgments confirmed the local authority’s decision. Indeed ...


We Should Heed Research Into What’S Happening In Rural Areas, Lorcan Sirr Nov 2016

We Should Heed Research Into What’S Happening In Rural Areas, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Ireland’s rural population has increased by just over 19%in the past 20 years, according to Teagasc, the state research body for the food and agriculture sector. A study, carried out by Dr David Meredith, senior researcher at Teagasc, looked at rural Ireland —its economy and where people are going to live. Media reports tend to focus on specific components of population decline, especially the headlinegrabbing “Can’t even field a GAA team” line, which focuses on young men. Populations comprise more than young men, however, and increases can be found in other age categories, such as the over-55s.


State Must Play To Crowd On Renting Or Face The Consequences, Lorcan Sirr Nov 2016

State Must Play To Crowd On Renting Or Face The Consequences, Lorcan Sirr

Media

In 1895, the French polymath Gustave Le Bon published his seminal work, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, on the behaviour and danger of crowds. For decades after, Le Bon’s theories influenced generations of politicians and their policies. Le Bon was influential at a time of rapid urbanisation, social upheaval and worker organisation. Social order was under threat and it was feared that “the masses” might break with patriarchy, social order and religion.


Help-To-Buy Scheme Is Detached From How We Really Live, Lorcan Sirr Oct 2016

Help-To-Buy Scheme Is Detached From How We Really Live, Lorcan Sirr

Media

The government’s help-tobuy scheme, announced in the budget, was rightfully criticised by many people. Various ministers seemed a little surprised, if not a bit tetchy, that fewpeople had rowed in behind their latest genius wheeze. In research carried out by Davy stockbrokers and the property website myhome.ie, even firsttime buyers did not expect a helpto- buy scheme (people are not too easily schmoozed these days). Two other things flew under the radar when the proposal was announced. First, the silence from retail banks was deafening, which was strange given the allegedly positive response from the Central Bank. It ...


Let’S Stop Calling This A Crisis And Start Building More Homes, Lorcan Sirr Oct 2016

Let’S Stop Calling This A Crisis And Start Building More Homes, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Over the past couple of years I have made a concerted effort not to use the phrase “housing crisis”, and I’ve been doing quite well, too. Recently, however, I have been using the dreaded phrase more often than I like. I don’t like the word “crisis” because it often gets abused, and although I’m talking about housing here, the same point can be applied to many economic and social problems and solutions.


No Landlord Exodus But Still The Same Old Eviction Problems, Lorcan Sirr Oct 2016

No Landlord Exodus But Still The Same Old Eviction Problems, Lorcan Sirr

Media

There has been a lot of discussion this year about concerns that landlords are fleeing the rental market in the face of rent freezes and difficulties in making a profit — but are they? First, it is important to note that it is not the number of landlords in a market that is relevant, it’s the number of tenancies, which is a measure of the size of the sector. The sector has actually expanded in the past 12 months from about 319,000 tenancies at the end of last year to 324,000 in mid-2016. The number of landlords also ...


First-Time Buyers’ Grant Is For The Developers’ Back Pocket, Lorcan Sirr Oct 2016

First-Time Buyers’ Grant Is For The Developers’ Back Pocket, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Over the last few weeks, political feelers have gone out to test the likely response to a grant for first-time buyers. Perhaps surprisingly for the government, the reaction has not been totally positive. The broad idea is that first-time buyers would get a lump sum payment, or other credit, of between €5,000 and €15,000 to help them to meet newmortgage lending thresholds, depending on the price of the house they are buying, perhaps up to €350,000.


To Solve Housing Crisis, We Must Get Over Our Problem With Cities, Lorcan Sirr Sep 2016

To Solve Housing Crisis, We Must Get Over Our Problem With Cities, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Housing is a many-headed beast with elements of technology, planning, finance, sociology and of course, politics. At its core, however, it is a simple thing: buildings for people and this is why it’s crucial to keep an eye on our population statistics. Preliminary results fromthe recent census are throwing up some interesting figures, all of which have implications for where we should be focusing our efforts to build housing. The location of our empty houses should have told us by nowthat there’s little point in building homes where there’s no demand for them.


Eroding Planning Powers Leaves Us At The Mercy Of The Market, Lorcan Sirr Sep 2016

Eroding Planning Powers Leaves Us At The Mercy Of The Market, Lorcan Sirr

Media

There is little evidence to show that the planning system in Ireland hinders the delivery of housing, yet it is regularly blamed for preventing developers from building. Consistent with our political tradition of “anecdote as fact”, no credible evidence is ever presented to prove these allegations that the planning system—and indeed, planners themselves—are a blockage. The elephant in the room is, of course, owners sitting on land with planning permission who won’t build, or who won’t sell if they can’t afford to build. Critics of the planning system are fewin reality, yet they are vocal ...


Stumbling Block Of Social Housing Stalls O’Devaney Gardens, Lorcan Sirr Sep 2016

Stumbling Block Of Social Housing Stalls O’Devaney Gardens, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Last week, Dublin city council (DCC) resolved a dispute with its own councillors over the regeneration of O’Devaney Gardens, a council estate behind Arbour Hill in Dublin. Named after Bishop O’Devaney, who was hanged at Arbour Hill in 1612 as a friend of Tyrone rebel chief Hugh O’Neill, O’Devaney Gardens is a 1950s corporation-built estate of 300 flats in 12 (originally 13) blocks.


European Road Trip Reveals Housing Sectors United By Strife, Lorcan Sirr Sep 2016

European Road Trip Reveals Housing Sectors United By Strife, Lorcan Sirr

Media

I recently undertook a 6,000km road trip that began in Glenties, in Co Donegal, and went as far as Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, before returning home via Trieste in Italy. During the trip the housing similarities and challenges that many European countries face became evident.


How Failings In Policy Making Give Us Plenty To Worry About, Lorcan Sirr Sep 2016

How Failings In Policy Making Give Us Plenty To Worry About, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Journalist Mick Clifford recently questioned the will and ability of any new government to solve the housing crisis. It’s a legitimate question as governments get caught between the needs of the electorate—more and cheaper housing—and those of the economy, and in particular the banks—higher house prices to pass European Central Bank stress tests.


Rental Sector Reform Must Look At The European Dimension, Lorcan Sirr Aug 2016

Rental Sector Reform Must Look At The European Dimension, Lorcan Sirr

Media

One of the key points of interest for me in Rebuilding Ireland, the recently published Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, was how it proposed to deal with reform of security of tenure in the private rental sector. Under the plan, where a landlord proposes to sell 20 or more units within a single scheme, the tenants can remain in situ “other than in exceptional circumstances”. Hopefully, this will be amended in due course; the proposal affects few landlords, offers protection to only a small proportion of tenants, and is riddled with legal holes. I would argue that landlords with ...


Beware Profit-Driven Lobbyists When It Comes To Housing Policy, Lorcan Sirr Aug 2016

Beware Profit-Driven Lobbyists When It Comes To Housing Policy, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Lobbying involves trying to influence political decisions using various forms of advocacy that is targeted at policymakers, usually on behalf of amembers’ interest group, organisation or professional body. At its most benign, lobbying merely provides policymakers with information and legislative support; at its worst, it is selfserving and is self-promotion of often lucrative vested interests


We Must Count On Policy Change To Halt Obsolete Housing Rate, Lorcan Sirr Jul 2016

We Must Count On Policy Change To Halt Obsolete Housing Rate, Lorcan Sirr

Media

The recent preliminary findings of this year’s census have thrown up some curious housing results. A little numbercrunching shows that we’ve not been adding as many houses each year as headline figures would suggest. Official completion numbers tell us that between 2011 and 2016, just 18,981 additional houses—or 0.94%—were added to the state’s overall housing stock, or an average of 3,796 a year. For comparison, at the 2006 census we had added 21%, and in 2011 it was 13%. We have effectively not increased our national housing stock in the past six ...


To Tackle The Housing Crisis, We Need To Talk About Ownership, Lorcan Sirr Jul 2016

To Tackle The Housing Crisis, We Need To Talk About Ownership, Lorcan Sirr

Media

The rights and obligations that go with property ownership are important issues in any country trying to control its housing stock, resolve a housing crisis or create a functioning system. The concept of ownership is not clear cut: there is common ownership, as seen on the pampas and prairies, and in the outback; shared ownership, in India and China; temporal ownership, in medieval France and now Catalonia; and subservient ownership, where the Earth belongs only to its creator.


Generation Rent Needs Grown-Up Housing Guidelines Now, Lorcan Sirr Jul 2016

Generation Rent Needs Grown-Up Housing Guidelines Now, Lorcan Sirr

Media

The private rented sector in Ireland accommodates 705,000 people in 324,000 tenancies—in properties owned by 172,000 registered landlords. In the past 18 months alone there has been an increase of 12,000 registered landlords.


Coveney Must Grasp The Nettle Of A Flawed Housing Report, Lorcan Sirr Jun 2016

Coveney Must Grasp The Nettle Of A Flawed Housing Report, Lorcan Sirr

Media

On June 17, the Oireachtas committee on housing and homelessness published its report after convening in April. It interviewed 38 witnesses and received about 82 submissions from the public and various bodies. These reports do not write themselves, so the committee must be commended for its efforts. Indeed, as I suspect many of its members did not appreciate the infinite complexities of housing, apart from the normal personal experiences, what they have read and constituents’ queries. They did well to get their heads around some of the main issues involved. The final report has some good recommendations but it misses ...


The State Needs To Supply Its Own Housing — To Save Money, Lorcan Sirr Jun 2016

The State Needs To Supply Its Own Housing — To Save Money, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Much debate about housing has centred on proposed solutions such as the Central Bank’s lending limits and a reduction in VAT for developers. The Department of the Environment’s contribution managed to bypass the democratic process, ignore its own civil service rules, then introduce newmandatory smaller apartment sizes, which, it said, would bring down costs and stimulate development. Of course, such a crude move did no such thing—just as reducing VAT for developers and lifting bank lending ratios for lenders will not create an affordable housing system. These “solutions” are like Nero fiddling as Rome burned behind him.


Time To Monitor Airbnb’S Impact On Dublin’S Housing Crisis, Lorcan Sirr Jun 2016

Time To Monitor Airbnb’S Impact On Dublin’S Housing Crisis, Lorcan Sirr

Media

A few weeks ago, I attended the Association for Law, Property and Society conference in Belfast. This event is normally held in America, so neither the US participants nor I knew the city. It was time for an experiment and, at £115 (€148) for a central two-bedroom apartment, Airbnb was cheaper than a hotel.


Bring Back State-Run Social Housing, Lorcan Sirr May 2016

Bring Back State-Run Social Housing, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Two weeks ago I was in what remains of O’Devaney Gardens, the social housing complex off Dublin’s North Circular Road, filming a programme with RTE. O’Devaney Gardens,behind Dublin’s Arbour Hill Prison, was built in the early 1950s, and named after a Bishop O’Devaney, a friend of 16th-century resistance leader Hugh O’Neill. O’Devaney was hanged in 1612 in the Arbour Hill area for treason . In recognition of his greatness, three centuries later 13 blocks of flats were named after him.


Where Is The Realism In The State’S ‘Hotchpotch’ Programme?, Lorcan Sirr May 2016

Where Is The Realism In The State’S ‘Hotchpotch’ Programme?, Lorcan Sirr

Media

The publication of the new programme for government brought fewsurprises. It astonished nobody that two of its most significant components were ending the housing shortage and homelessness, and boosting jobs and rural development. The document weighs in at a hefty 155 pages, which averages out at 2.67 pages per government member and supporter. It seems as though every idea from every corner, no matter how unrealistic, was included to garner support. There were positives. It broadly identifies many pertinent issues, including the need for political leadership, tackling homelessness and promoting tenants’ rights. It aims to review building standards and ...


You Can Forget About A Housing Recovery With Our Skills Drain, Lorcan Sirr May 2016

You Can Forget About A Housing Recovery With Our Skills Drain, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Over the past 10 years or so, civil service and local authority staffing levels have been dramatically reduced. Those who retired have not been replaced, and other employees have left for the private sector or have taken early retirement because they were unhappy with pay cuts and changes to their contracts.

The results have been mixed. No doubt money has been saved through reduced state pay and some of the employees who left might have been of limited value in the first place. Workloads have increased for those left behind, but there have also been costs that show not all ...


Time For A Fresh Look At Housing As Eu Report Shames Ireland, Lorcan Sirr May 2016

Time For A Fresh Look At Housing As Eu Report Shames Ireland, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Now that a new minority administration is here, it’s time to look at ways this government can improve on previous ones. One positive step could be to take on board the findings of a recent EU report on procurement practices. Entitled “public procurement—a study on administrative capacity in the EU”, it looks at the systems and structures of individual member states.


Low-Cost Housing Is Possible Only If We Prioritise Value For Money, Lorcan Sirr Apr 2016

Low-Cost Housing Is Possible Only If We Prioritise Value For Money, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Assessing value for money is nowstandard practice for government departments and agencies. These bodies, including the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor- General, evaluate the economy and efficiency with which state bodies acquire, use and dispose of resources. This is a positive step in a state system that isn’t very keen on post-hoc evaluation. Since 2009, the Department of the Taoiseach has insisted that all legislation be subject to a regulatory impact assessment—to identify likely positive and negative outcomes of projects. To date, very little legislation has been subject to such an assessment. Evidence is still a dirty ...


Building Regulations Are In A Terrible State, But I Have A Solution, Lorcan Sirr Apr 2016

Building Regulations Are In A Terrible State, But I Have A Solution, Lorcan Sirr

Media

Inspection of buildings by the state during construction and on completion has led to a huge gap in Ireland’s building history. An almost total lack of state inspection—and, since 1990, a reliance on self-regulation —has contributed to situations such as those at Priory Hall in Dublin and Millfield Manor in Kildare.


If We’Re Playing By The Rules, It Has To Be A Good Game, Lorcan Sirr Apr 2016

If We’Re Playing By The Rules, It Has To Be A Good Game, Lorcan Sirr

Media

In the 2015 book Rule Breakers, author Niamh Hourigan postulates that Ireland’s success and downfall was due to personal relationships being much more important than rules. She says that a “weak rules and strong relationships” tension permeates Irish life, and not only at the top. This seems to have led to Ireland having a reputation of being friendly and open, and an easy place in which to do business. It has also created a place where corruption has been far too easy and widespread as a result of the power and influence of relationships.


That’S Enough Talking, Let’S Have A Proper Plan For Housing, Lorcan Sirr Apr 2016

That’S Enough Talking, Let’S Have A Proper Plan For Housing, Lorcan Sirr

Media

On March 31 acting environment minister Alan Kelly assembled the third housing and homeless forum in two years. It brought together housing NGOs, Nama, local authorities and bodies such as the Central Bank and Construction Industry Federation, as well as TDs from all political parties. The forum was interesting for a few reasons. First, the issues facing housing haven’t changed in the past 24 months. If anything, they’ve intensified, but the underlying problems remain the same. Second, the participant responses will have been mainly the same, too, although also intensified. So why have such an event?


Deposit Scheme Is Welcome — But We’Re Still Playing Catch-Up, Lorcan Sirr Mar 2016

Deposit Scheme Is Welcome — But We’Re Still Playing Catch-Up, Lorcan Sirr

Media

As an increasing number of people find permanent homes in the private rental sector, issues of contention between landlords and tenants will be more frequent. Right nowabout 3% of the population has the legal right to evict more than 20% of households, and so security of tenure will become a key area of debate and discussion. The issue must be addressed, unless government is happy for a significant proportion of its population to exist at the whim of a much smaller percentage, and is willing to deal with the social, health and economic fallout from that.