Saturday April 07 2007
People looking for an 'affordable' home in Celbridge will get a two-bedroom apartment for over Ä40,000 less if they purchase it with Kildare Co Council instead of through a state agency charged with the delivery of affordable homes.
Although the apartments in Hazelhatch Park are the same design and have been built by the same company, the Affordable Homes Partnership (AHP) is selling a dozen of them for between Ä228,000 and Ä245,000. However, Kildare Co Council are selling them for just Ä185,000.
The price difference arises because the council bought the homes off the plans, while the AHP only purchased the units in recent weeks at market prices. Opposition politicians last night said it showed the need for a national housing agency which would deliver social and affordable housing in a cost-efficient manner.
"It's going to be very difficult for people to rationalise why there's widely different selling prices," independent TD Catherine Murphy said. "I took a deep breath when I saw the difference. I wonder are the Affordable Homes Partnership talking to the council?" Affordable homes are earmarked for people on lower incomes who cannot afford to purchase houses privately.
Single applicants can earn up to Ä55,000 and qualify to purchase the homes at a discount to the market price, with a threshold of up to Ä75,000 for couples. If the house is sold within 20 years, a percentage of the purchase price - or a clawback - must be re-paid to the local council.
Developers must offer the local council up to 20pc of all units in a new estate for social and affordable homes. The apartments cost between Ä335,000 - Ä349,500 on the open market.
Kildare Co Council said yesterday that people with incomes of up to Ä55,000 would qualify to purchase one of the apartments, and that Affordable Homes Partnership applicants would need a similar income range.
The price difference arises because the council bought the houses off the plan
"We cover ourselves and sell them at cost. The Affordable Homes Partnership has negotiated separate agreements to Kildare Co Council," a spokesperson said.
People who purchase the apartments through the AHP will pay up to Ä245,000, with the housing agency paying the difference in the market price to the developer Maplewood Homes.
The price difference showed the need for a single housing agency to deliver homes for people on lower incomes, Labour said last night. "I don't understand this at all, it's the first time I've come across that anomaly," Eamon Gilmore, the party's environment spokesman, said.
"What is happening now is this belated rush to rack up the number of affordable houses on offer. This whole area will have to be streamlined. People applying should not have two different prices for the same apartment on offer from the Affordable Homes Partnership and the county council."
The Green Party's Ciaran Cuffe called for a national housing body."It's enormously frustrating. Both bodies are working to their own mandate, and there is no requirement they consult each other on price," he said.
- Paul Melia
A commuters paradise?-It may as well be the far side of the world...
An affordable home in the Capital's suburbs- Donegal !.Only 250,000 Euros.Within 300 commuting miles of Dublin.
My letter published in the Irish Independent 30/8/2005;(The letter was partially 'censored' but this is the original text. )
"In 2001,Fianna Fail announced to great fanfare their plan to provide affordable housing for all poorer citizens
(those on less than 60,000 euros a year ,that is).
This propaganda was widely reported in the newspapers,and no doubt at least some of the gullible electorate believed it might come to fruition. Fianna Fail shamefully capitulated to the Builders lobby. The plan was all but abandoned and local councils they were paid off (again?) to take "cash" in lieu of the affordable house quota which was previously obligatory for virtually all developments."
? PLAY IT AGAIN SAM!
The Irish Times,for want of any hard news to fill its costly pages continues to play a willing role in disseminating the nonsense that issues from the busy governments ever active perpetual replay, propaganda machine-where busy fraudsters in the state's employ daily release meaningless tripe posing as 'Something new out of Africa' Take for example their front page headlines,Aug 27 2005;
"Government plan measures to deliver affordable housing"
My reply was published in the "Irish Independent"( in censored form) as follows:
" Bertie planned these measures in 2001 and nothing ever came of them.What will another happy sounding Quango called 'The affordable homes partnership' achieve? We believe the bit about your 'fast tracking' hundreds of acres of new building land for your cronies.They may not however want to build even private housing on it if an oversupply risks depressing the price of their current projects. You yourself said that a small group of no more than a dozen powerful individuals ( such as the corrupt Bailey Brothers) control 90% of the land bank availible for building -or indeed-rezoning , in the greater Dublin area.The builders were not happy with the prospect of poorer citizens moving in where they do not belong and possibly lowering the tone and the value of their developments.Bertie did not mind at all, he has trousered the money they bribed him with,instead of increasing the derisory number of affordable houses,being built."
My letter continued:
"Irish newspapers should investigate the background to every unadulterated propaganda release from Fianna Fail and refuse to publish these announcements-at least without printing alongside them, the previous history relating to the heralded 'rolling out' of each 'new project' . It is a disservice to readers that every scruffy,old lying beggar that's dressed up in a new suit of clothes by Bertie, is sent to willing gillies in newspaper offices countrywide by the government spin department on a daily basis,and displayed unquestioningly on the front page, to dupe the electorate.The Soldiers are well aware if enough of the media even announce/publish the stream of nonsense which issues from their Quango creation department daily,at least some of it will stick.Like when you throw a large bucket of sh-er-sileage, against a farmhouse wall.!"
Yours etc.John McDermott
Mr Ahern replied in the "Irish Independent" to effect a damage limitation exercise, and and his letter was published on Ist September as follows;
Sir - Recently a letter from John McDermott from the sunnier climes of Gran Canaria took issue with the government's record on affordable housing. He alleges that the recent announcement about the establishment of the Affordable Homes Partnership relates to measures planned in 2001 and that "nothing ever came of them". Before dealing with the Partnership itself, let me first set the record straight on what has been achieved.
By the reference to 2001, I am assuming that Mr McDermott is referring to the legislation introduced under the Planning and Development Act 2000 in relation to the setting aside of up to 20% of land for social and affordable housing. Perhaps Mr McDermott is abroad since 2001 and not up to speed with progress but I would like to advise him that, up to the end of March 2005, over 1,100 social and affordable housing units were delivered under Part V.
Over 2,000 more were in progress and nearly another 3,000 were in planning. While this may seem like "nothing" to Mr McDermott, I have no doubt that it means the world to the 1,000-plus families who have already benefited from this initiative and the many thousands more who will benefit in the coming months and years.
Indeed, taking all the initiatives in this area together, over 9,600 affordable housing units have been delivered since 2001. Mr McDermott goes on to question what the Affordable Homes Partnership will achieve. I am happy to answer that. It can be summed up in three words - more, faster and quality. It is all about achieving the quicker delivery of more high-quality affordable homes. To help to achieve this, one of the tasks which the Partnership will undertake is to bring forward additional land for housing. Anybody who knows anything about housing will regard this as a simple recognition of the fact that the availability of land is key to the supply of housing and to making housing affordable. But Mr McDermott chooses to paint it as a scheme to benefit "cronies".
This suggestion disgracefully impugns the good names of the public-spirited people who have agreed to serve as board members of the Partnership. It ignores the fact that we have set out very clearly that the process of drawing in additional land for housing will be governed by a number of key principles: there will have to be a clearly established housing need in the area and it will have to be suitable from the point of view of sustainable development and value for money. That must occur within the context of quality and a timescale for fast delivery.
Noel Ahern TD,
Minister for Housing
and Urban Renewal,
Mr Ahern neglected to refer to the fact that Mr McManus head of the Irish Council For Social Housing said in September 2005 that although Ireland has "one of the highest completion rates for private housing in the EU at 17 new homes per 1,000 people, it has ironically one of the lowest levels of completion for social housing at less than two homes per 1,000." So in effect, neither so called 'Affordable Housing' or Local Authority housing, is coming on stream at anything but a derisory pace.
Irish Independent March 2006,reported the real truth.
DEVELOPERS are now paying local authorities Ä1m a month to avoid their social housing obligations.
So far they have paid almost Ä22m.
The Government had hoped to eradicate sprawling council estates by a mix of housing in new developments across the country.
Under the plan developers are obliged to set aside 20pc of houses to meet each county's social and affordable needs.
But new figures, obtained by the Irish Independent reveal developers are paying county councils large sums of cash or with land to by-pass their social housing commitments.
Figures from the Department of the Environment show that during the first nine months of 2005, developers paid county councils Ä8.89m - instead of selling housing units in private estates to lower and middle-range-income families.
Up to 80,000 new homes were built in Ireland last year - but just 830 were allocated to local authorities under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts.
The figures also reveal:
Ā Since 2002, just 1,630 houses have been provided under Part V. During the same period 237,613 homes have been completed for sale on the open market.
Ā Developers gave councils 28 parcels of land totalling 13.415 hectares, and 169 smaller sites in the same period.
Ā E22m was paid in lieu of housing and/or land.
Part V of the Act was introduced to avoid the future creation of run down council estates by having a mix of housing in each new area of population. It never happened.
It would also help first-time buyers get their foot on the property ladder.
Do Fianna Fail still take an educated electorate for fools.?
Campaigning nun attacks Ďunequalí Irish society
By Claire OíSullivan (Examiner newspaper, August 2006)
ONE of the countryís top social campaigners, Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, has launched a stinging attack on Irish society, warning that poorer people now see themselves as "failures, non-productive and useless" as wealth and economic success is so venerated in this country.
Sr Stanislaus said Ireland is one of the most unequal societies in the world with excessive focus on a "super-wealthy minority" who benefited economically and disproportionately from the Celtic Tiger.
She warned that inexorable house price increases, with an average home costing 400,000, meant that home ownership is now "way beyond the means of people living on average salaries". The Government were doing nothing to halt this trend, she added.
"Housing is creating enormous stresses and strains for young families who feel vulnerable and isolated and donít know who to turn to. Young families are breaking under the pressure of huge mortgages and personal debt, long commutes and problems with traffic, childcare and lack of quality time," she said.
Just 5% of the houses built during the countryís construction boom were for local authorities, she said ó a fact she described as "ironic and shameful".
The local authority housing waiting list has more than doubled over the past 15 years from 19,376 in 1989 to 43,684 in 2005.
Sr Stanislaus also lambasted the Government for the lack of immigrant integration policy.
"It is high time politicians realised that while they go looking for migrant workers, it is people who come to work here, these people are not economic units but human beings with families and needs and rights, like the rest of us," she said, calling for a senior minister to be made responsible for immigration and integration.
Bertie,s boys pocket the money-as always.!
A young man of my acquaintance sold his home, a three bedroom semi detached house located 4 miles outside the M 50 perimiter in West Dublin,in May 2006.
He placed a deposit on a luxury flat closer to the city 2 years ago,the fixed price of which was then 400,000 Euros. At the time of signing the contract his current home was valued at 280,000 Euros.At the end of last year it was selling for 320,000 Euros.This month the house was sold for 390,000 euros. Prices are still rising weekly.
This puts these starter house into the 6 percent stamp duty category for first time buyers.They are now competing once again on level terms with the speculators who,according to statistical data, buy 4 in every 10 new homes/apartments built in Dublin.
So much for Fianna Fail favouring home buyers and disadvantaging speculators.
.No house is sold today at an asking price.Everything is "offers over such and such a figure" There are no more house auctions today,because every house sale is in reality a "dutch auction".
I understand the couples who were vying against each other for this house are borrowed up to the hilt and have of course already received their inheritance -as is the norm these days- from their parents.There is a saying in business, "you have to leave a bit of meat on the bone for the next man". Not so in the property market. It's a jungle out there.Both buyers who were competing for this property have already been "Gazumpted" ie. are disappointed losers from a previous dutch auction.
The banks of course have long discarded their prudent income related guidelines,as they happily dance to the tune of the upward price spiral.
Today Mr Aherne and Mr Cowan have politely asked the unions not to jeopardise their members livelihoods by demanding rises which pursue the inflationary spiral that their policies have created.!!
The scandalous corruption, incompetence, and lack of foresight of this government, which has affected the availibility of serviced building land in Dublin, goes unmentioned..
Fianna Fail's generousity to a privileged portion of the work force -the state sector of which they themselves are a part- has also affected the price of property, as it belatedly comes on stream never matching the actual demand.
That a small coterie of builders already control and own much of the availible land in the Dublin region is also a factor in the whole debacle.
One needs no expertise in economic theory to understand that so called "benchmarking"-i.e. paying almost 40 percent of the nation's securely employed workforce,the fortunate state and semi state employees, wages above and beyond the norm in the private sector, is one facet of a financial and economic time bomb.
These people have guaranteed pensions, which would cost a private sector worker an incredible 40% of his salary in annual contributions, for a similiar gold plated, index- linked private pension, long after civil servants retire their pension will increase to match every pay rise awarded to working civil servants in future years.
Mr David Went chairman of the Irish Life and Permanent Building Society calculates that the last round of benchmarking will cost the taxpayer 20 billion Euros,and not the 1 billion Euro figure calculated on the back of a cigarette packet by Fianna Fail,s spin doctors.
Computerization has caused-not cured many problems in the state sector.
There is an office block in park House on the North Circular Road where 40 redundant local government employees,clock in every day,and will continue to do so, until they reach pensionable age because it would cost too much to buy them out of their secure jobs.
And Fianna Fail Ministers are asking for wage moderation in the private sector.?
Hypocrisy is an art form in Fianna Fail. The americans tell a joke."How do you know when a lawyer is lying"? answer; "When his lips move"!
" How do you know when Fianna Fail ministers are lying.?" When their lips move
Question is, will the the young generation who are queing up for houses -at any price-and who rarely bother to vote in general ections- will they be out in force come polling
day next June,to make a difference.?
Will the young couples who have already been involuntarily "decentralized" -i.e. forced out of Dublin by rising house prices,and spending long hours commuting to work-will they also find time to vote-and make a difference.?
(Postcript.They didnt! It took a major recession in 2009 for that to happen!)
Up to 14,000 social and affordable houses may have been 'lost' by capitulation to the developers lobby says Emma Browne writing in the "Village" magazine
The phalanxes of builders and developers that crowd the Fianna FŠil tent at Galway races have reason to be especially generous to their hosts. Two years ago a Fianna FŠil minister, Martin Cullen, sanitised a radical initiative of another Fianna FŠil minister, Noel Dempsey, that required builders to provide social and affordable housing. As a result of that Martin Cullen concession, 14,000 families that might have obtained social and affordable housing have been disappointed. The builders have been overjoyed at the relaxation of building requirements.
In 2000 Noel Dempsey, then Minister for Environment and Local Government, introduced the Planning and Development Bill 2000, Part V of which stipulated that all residential housing developments in zoned land (with some exemptions) would have to provide 20 per cent social and affordable housing.
The builders objected. The Irish Construction Industry Federation said the requirement was "inappropriate and unworkable". Noel Dempsey was not for turning, apparently, but then something curious happened. Although in its 2002 election manifesto Fianna FŠil boasted about its initiatives on social and affordable housing, a few weeks after publishing the manifesto the party agreed in the Programme for Government to "review" Part V of the 2000 act. A climb-down at the behest of the builders was about to transpire, just a year after Part V had come into effect. And in double-quick time, the new Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Martin Cullen, introduced amendments to the legislation.
One of the amendments had to do with what is known in the jargon as "the withering rule". The 2000 act had exempted from the social- and affordable-housing provision all planning permissions for development that had been granted before local authority housing strategies were completed, but such planning permissions would "wither" after two years. This "withering" clause gave the 2000 act real teeth, for it meant that all planning permissions that didn't go ahead within two years of the housing strategies being completed would have to go through the planning permission process again, this time subject to the social- and affordable-housing provision. But two years later Martin Cullen extended the "withering" provision from two years to five years.
The argument was that if the two-year "withering rule" remained in place there would be a slump in housing output for 2003 because there were 2,124 current planning permissions with 79,690 units that would expire during the end of 2002 and 2003.
Builders had known the withering rule was being introduced from 1999 when the bill was first published so they submitted a raft of planning applications during 2000 and 2001. These planning applications were not subject to the social- and affordable-housing requirement. This meant that there was a glut of planning permissions that were due to wither during 2002 and 2003. Developers could have resubmitted the planning applications but they didn't want to do this as it meant the developments would have to include 20 per cent social and affordable housing. Instead they pressured the government into a back-down.
Noel Ahern, the current Junior Minster for the Environment and Local Government, says they had to give in to the construction industry. "We could have dug in and had a big row but construction output would have died, there would have been a shortage of supply and increased prices. We have to work with the sector rather than have an argument with them. We did change the law and then they did cooperate".
As a result of the 2002 amendment 70,000 units became exempt from Part V resulting in a potential loss of 14,000 social and affordable homes.
Another amendment made by Martin Cullen in 2002 has also decreased the provision of social and affordable housing. He relaxed the 20 per cent social- and affordable-housing requirement to providing for a payment-in-lieu option which the local authorities could exercise. In other words, a local authority could agree to exempt a developer from the social and affordable housing requirement in return for a payment.
A recent report by Focus Ireland, 'Building for Inclusion?' states that only one-third of Part V social and affordable homes planned by local authorities have been delivered in the last two years. In 2004 local authorities had hoped to acquire 1,945 units but just 591 units were built, less than a third. In 2005 local authorities estimated that 3,865 units would be built, but only 1,371 units were constructed (again a third). Local authorities estimate that 3,170 units will be built by the end of the year but this seems unlikely as only 351 had been built by March this year.
In the next few of years output is due to increase as planning permissions granted in 2001/2002 will "wither" and schemes from 2003 and 2004 will come on board. These should all include the 20 per cent social and affordable housing, except where payments in lieu come into play.
Until now payments in lieu have not been used extensively. However the Focus Ireland report states: "A number of local authorities are known to be keen on the financial option."
Since 2003 the total of payments in lieu paid is ?31.8m. John O'Connor from the Affordable Home Partnership says that payments in lieu "are being used too much".
Minister Noel Ahern says he would be "worried" if it was being used when flexibility wasn't warranted: "We [the Department of Environment and Local Government] have made it clear to local authorities that units is what we want."
The 31.8m is to be used by local authorities for social and affordable housing and Noel Ahern suggests they may use it for some super-affordable housing for those on lower incomes.
There are further problems with the scheme because of suspected foot-dragging, both by the Department of the Environment and Local Government and by local authorities.
Noel Ahern says the "changes [amendments] did delay the real dividend from Part V but they have helped the overall supply of housing". He is confident that an average 5,000 units a year will be delivered within a couple of years. However Focus Ireland says that if the government does not change the administration of the scheme they will not be able to meet projected targets of 5,000 units a year
Meanwhile local councils have discovered another stealth tax...
Councils charge Ä100 to join housing lists.2004
COUNCILS are charging up to Ä100 for a place on their affordable housing waiting lists, even though applications have less than a one in 10 chance of success.
The scheme, which is supposed to provide cheaper housing for people who canít afford their own homes, has been criticised as a weak attempt at halting the housing crisis. There are almost 50,000 people on waiting lists, but only 163 affordable houses have been built since the beginning of last year.
Now councils have introduced "administration charges" to deter large numbers of applicants. Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown council charged 414 applicants Ä100 each to apply for 85 homes in a new development. If the applicant wanted to share ownership with the councils fees can rise by Ä20. The council has no plans to refund the 329 unsuccessful applicants.
Dublin city council is charging between Ä30 and Ä50 to process applications for affordable houses, and has received nearly 1,000 applications in the eight weeks since it introduced the scheme. Only eight applicants will be housed this year ó two of them in the new Gracepark Manor development in Drumcondra ó with a further 50 expected to be given homes next year.
The scheme, introduced in 1999, stipulated that new housing developments must set aside 20% of their stock as "affordable". But developers are exploiting the regulations to avoid providing the quota. Exemptions can be sought if a building comprises less than five units, or if occupies less than 0.1 hectares.
A controversial 26-storey, 44-unit development proposed by Denis OíBrien in Donnybrook, Dublin, has won an exemption from the affordable housing scheme due to the small site it is using.
According to Dun Laoghaire council, fees are necessary to "ensure that people who are applying are serious".
To qualify for affordable housing, individuals must earn less than Ä32,000 a year. Applicants are graded by a points system according to perceived need.
Eamon Gilmore, the Labour party spokesman on the environment, said: "The implementation of this scheme has allowed greedy-eyed county managers to exploit a needy section of society. A small charge is acceptable, but that taxpayers have to pay Ä100 to attempt to avail of a government scheme is unacceptable."
Noel Ahern, the housing minister, has said the scheme is delivering.Lies and spin as usual.
"Newspaper reports on affordable housing are misleading," he said. "2,610 affordable houses were provided in 2003 through government affordable housing schemes, not 163 as suggested." So what,s the truth. Would you buy a used car from Bertie, or Noel Ahern.?
Revenue pockets 45% of costs of new homes
THE government has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the booming property market, with almost half the cost of new homes going on taxes.
New figures show the taxman takes 45% of the purchase price of an average new home in Dublin by imposing nine different levies on builders and buyers. The extent to which property is taxed means that the government has benefited enormously from runaway house prices even as ministers have agonised over first-time buyers being priced out of the market.
Jim Power, chief economist at Friends First, said property tax had become "totally prohibitive" and needed to be lowered to free up the housing market.
"Take an elderly couple for example. If they are living in a large house and want to trade down to something small, stamp duty makes that transaction difficult," he said. Figures obtained from the Revenue Commissioners show a five-fold increase in its take from stamp duty in less than a decade from Ä127m in 1993 to over Ä660m in 2002.
Stamp-duty brackets have remained largely the same even though house prices have soared. That means more and more properties are taxed at rates that were reserved for top-end homes a decade ago. Bernard Allen, a Fine Gael TD, said: "The minister for finance has the fixed ability to address the issue of lowering stamp-duty rates to suit first-time buyers and people who are struggling to buy a house. Increases in house prices are not being reflected by stamp-duty taxes.
"The fact that house prices have trebled since 1997 and fewer houses qualify for the lower end of the stamp-duty tax brackets mean the government is making a huge amount of money and has a vested interest in keeping prices and tax rates high."
PLAY IT AGAIN SAM!
The Irish Times,for want of any hard news to fill its costly pages continues to play a willing role in disseminating the nonsense that issues from the busy governments ever active perpetual replay, propaganda machine-where busy fraudsters in the state,s employ daily release meaningless tripe posing as 'Something new out of Africa' Take for example the front page headlines,Aug 27 2005;
'Government plan measures to deliver affordable housing'
Bertie planned these measures in 2001 and nothing ever came of them.What will another happy sounding Quango called 'The affordable homes partnership' achieve? We believe the bit about your 'fast tracking' hundreds of acres of new building land for your cronies.They may not however want to build even private housing on it if an oversupply risks depressing the price of their current projects. You yourself said that a small group of no more than a dozen powerful individuals ( such as the corrupt Bailey Brothers) control 90% of the land bank availible for building -or indeed-rezoning , in the greater Dublin area.
Irish newspapers should investigate the background to every unadulterated propaganda release from Fianna Fail and refuse to publish these announcements-at least without printing alongside them, the previous history relating to the heralded 'rolling out' of each 'new project' . It is a disservice to readers that every scruffy,old lying beggar that's dressed up in a new suit of clothes by Bertie, is sent to willing gillies in newspaper offices countrywide by the government spin department on a daily basis,and displayed unquestioningly on the front page, to dupe the electorate.The Soldiers are well aware if enough of the media even announce/publish the stream of nonsense which issues from their Quango creation department daily,at least some of it will stick.Like when you throw a large bucket of sh-er-sileage, against a farmhouse wall.!
Do they take us all for Donkeys or what ?
Fast forward to 2009 recession:
There are thousands of "affordable"? homes now availible throughout the country.Its a pity nobody has a job to "afford" to buy them anymore. The local authorities have given the developers a "digout" and bought blocks and blocks of them with taxpayers money (at ridiculously high prices)
Now they cant offload them.Shame.!
A Dun Laoire councillor seeks re-election.
ALMOST 150 new homes in south Dublin will be lying idle until at least next year after a developer lost a legal bid to compel a council to issue it with letters of compliance necessary to complete the sales of apartments and houses..
Glenkerrin Homes had sought a High Court injunction to compel Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to issue the letters, but the council refused because it had not reached agreement with the developer over the number of social and affordable units to be provided on site.
Ray Grehan the MD said "You cannot close the sale, because every solicitor in the country wants the letter.
"We had no choice but to go to court. We're willing to resolve the issue, and have units ready to go. We have some affordable units ready to go for the last eight months, and we're anxious to comply with our Part V requirements."
Part V of the Planning and Development Act compels developers to hand over up to 20pc of new homes in an estate - or cash or land in lieu - for affordable housing.
The legal dispute arose after the company offered to pay financial contributions (which has been the norm for years) instead of providing social housing units at its 450-unit development at Ballintyre Hall.
Ray Grehan claims the development is "not appropriate" for social housing, but the council wants it to provide the 15 social units and has refused to issue unconditional letters of compliance in the absence of an agreement.
Glenkerrin last week sought an interlocutory injunction - to apply pending the outcome of its dispute with the council - requiring the council to issue the letters.
Mr Justice Frank Clarke yesterday ruled that both sides had raised important issues to be tried but said he was refusing the order because to grant it would effectively determine the issues in the case.
This was not one of those clear cases where the applicant was bound to succeed.
He said he would facilitate an early hearing of the dispute which centred on "a net legal point" - whether the developer was entitled to get unconditional letters of compliance from the council or whether, in the absence of agreement on meeting social and affordable housing requirements, the council was entitled to issue a conditional letter of compliance.
The judge suggested that if the developer and the council could agree terms for the referral of their dispute to either the Property Arbitrator or An Bord Pleanala, and also agree to accept as binding the findings of either of those bodies, that might provide a means of resolving the dispute and allow the council to issue the letters of compliance.
In his decision, the judge remarked the Council had adopted a policy which seemed understandable in given that its area involved a lot of built on land and where it encountered difficulties acquiring land to build affordable housing.
Paul Melia and Ann O Loughlin
BROADCASTER Duncan Stewart has said he is "shocked" at current low standards in Irish building regulations, saying the Government has not prepared the public for the grave energy crisis we are facing.
Speaking at a sustainable energy conference, the award-winning architect and presenter of RTE's About the House warned that energy prices are going to go through the roof in the next five years.
"We'll look back and be amazed at how cheap energy was in 2006," he said.
In October 2006, gas prices have risen by a whopping 34 per cent, and electricity is set to rise another 20 per cent in January. A quarter of us will be unable to afford to heat our homes properly this winter, and it's only going to get worse, he said.
Ireland, which imports 90 per cent of its energy, is going to be hit hard by shrinking world oil and gas reserves. As demand outstrips supply, the cost of heating and energy here will be crippling.
Declan Meally of Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), revealed how 30-35 per cent of heat energy is lost through the roof of a house, and 25-30 per cent through the walls. We are letting all this expensive energy flow out like money down the drain, as well as contributing considerably to global warming, he said.
And speaking to a crowded hall in Newbridge, Mr Stewart slammed the Government for not subsidising proper insulation of existing houses, and for not making sure houses being built are up to scratch.
"Standards are irresponsibly low," he said. "Too low for the challenges we are facing. The Government is pandering to vested interests, like developers and builders, at the expense of ordinary householders."
Ireland has experienced an unprecedented building boom in the past decade; this year alone has seen almost 90,000 houses built. Yet there has been no pressure on builders to insulate properly or install sustainable energy systems in new homes. Thus homeowners face a choice between escalating fuel prices, and the cost of upgrading their homes to save on energy.
"To insulate a house at the building stage costs a tenth of what it costs to upgrade later," said Mr Stewart. "It's an appalling situation, a sellers' market, and builders can do what they like."
Leading economist Jim Power also stepped up pressure on the Government, saying he did not believe they were serious about developing sustainable energy.
"We're not aware of the gravity of the situation we're in globally," he warned. "In Ireland, we're way behind in pushing the environmental agenda."
DEVELOPERS are being allowed to bypass their obligation to set aside 20pc of new developments for social housing, it was claimed in August 2006.
Opposition leaders accused the Government of allowing builders with an inside track to Fianna Fail to 'neuter' their social housing commitments.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte yesterday told the Parnell Summer School in Co Wicklow that a "new urban landlord" class was "funding their political favourites", and that apartments funded by tax-breaks were often sustained by tenants on housing rental supplements.
And Green Party leader Trevor Sargent also told the school that 'obscene' land prices continued to keep people out of the housing market, and that a "new type of landlordism" now permeated Irish society.
Many people had been "robbed" of their dignity and health by being forced to struggle with mounting debt and long commutes to work, he said, adding that landowners were making money on the back of the exchequer providing community facilities which pushed up the price of land.
He said the Government should immediately implement the 1973 Kenny Report, which recommended that land purchased by local authorities should cost no more than a 25pc premium on top of its existing use market value.
This would result in land zoned for residential use - but used as farmland - being bought on the agricultural value.
Addressing a symposium on 'Michael Davitt's Legacy for Contemporary Ireland', Mr Rabbitte said that "increasingly incoherent" development was taking place and that the Ireland of 2006 faced a "new land question".
"The landlord system of property which Davitt abhorred is long gone. However, we do today have a new land question," he said. "The population boom, immigration and sustained and rapid economic growth have created vast new pressures in our towns and cities.
"We have a new landlord, indeed speculative class, serious issues of affordability in housing (and) the emergence of estate management companies. The national spatial strategy is a joke and Fianna Fail never intended it to be anything else," he added.
On the same day that Pat Rabbite gave his speech, the Independent carried news of such wanton waste, as having an odour of corruption about it- in the Health Service Executive..
THE Health Service Executive has been spending Ä51,000 a year renting a building in Sligo which has been unoccupied for the past four years, it has been claimed.
A furious Cllr Declan Bree, who uncovered the scandal after an information request to the Health Forum West, has accused the HSE of squandering public funds.
He is demanding a full investigation into how the building could have been left lying vacant for so long.
Mr Bree, a member of the HSE's Health Forum West, had asked the forum to furnish him with details of each property rented by the HSE in Sligo, the purpose for which it was used and the annual rent paid.
It emerged from the reply that almost Ä1.5m was being paid in rental for an estimated 57 properties, among them, the former Medicentre premises in Kempten Parade, in Sligo city centre.
But on further examination, he discovered that the premises, which the HSE said was being used for the Orthopaedic fitting service and for the Down's Syndrome Association, had been lying vacant for the past four years.
"I visited the premises last week and discovered that contractors were now in the process of fitting it out for use and I also found that a single HSE staff member had moved in three days earlier and was in the process of preparing an office for the Orthopaedic fitting service.
"I have every reason to believe that if I had not asked the question, this building would still be lying empty," he said. "I think it is outrageous that the HSE could squander in excess of Ä200,000 on a premises that lies vacant. Given the needs and requirements of the health service in this area and given the number of people seeking improved services, there can be no excuse for such a wanton waste of taxpayers money," he said.
It also emerged that the HSE is paying Ä198,850 in annual rent for the national project offices for the controversial PPAR human resources information system of the Irish health service in Duck Street, Sligo, while, Markievicz House - a building owned by the HSE on Barrack Street - lies vacant a couple of hundred metres away.
"I find it difficult to comprehend why the HSE would spend such a large amount of money renting property.
"In my view, the HSE should be investing wisely and purchasing necessary property. Money spent on rent is a waste of resources and a waste of public funds," said Cllr Bree.
(Not for the Fianna Fail crony landlords it's not.!!)
The single biggest sum of money paid on rent by the HSE in Sligo is Ä316,165 per annum for offices at JFK House, which is located on Kennedy Parade in the town, which is mainly used for community services and health promotion.
A HSE spokesperson said that it would respond to the claims later in the week
DEVELOPERS are turning Dublin into flatland for single people and young couples.
Just one in seven new apartments are family-friendly and suitable for people to live in long-term. Most new apartments being built in the city centre only have one or two bedrooms, which means that homeowners who want to have a family will be forced to move out.
New figures show that just one-in-seven of all apartments given planning permission so far this year have more than two bedrooms.
Of 1,367 apartments granted planning permission just 187 (14pc) were of a sufficient size in which to raise a family.
THE Government is giving corporate property developers a tax break that is nine times better than the plight of first-time buyers.
Finance Minister Brian Cowen failed to use the Budget to address a 'scam' whereby companies can trade shares to acquire land.
This method attracts a stamp duty rate of only 1pc on the transaction - compared to the 9pc homebuyers often end up paying.
Now the minister is being taken to task for previous "crocodile tears" when he expressed unhappiness at giant corporate tax avoidance in this area.
Labour finance spokeswoman, Joan Burton, called on Mr Cowen to prove his concern by taking legislative action. She said he must clarify whether or not he intends to close off major stamp duty loopholes.
The escape routes are benefiting builders and developers to the tune of tens of millions per year, she said, while individual buyers were being forced to cough up huge duty to the State for even modest home purchases.
Ms Burton said the minister had acknowledged in the Dail that he was concerned about two major loopholes, being so-called 'licence to build' schemes and the sale of a property through sale of shares rather than through transfer of funds.
"Recently the sale of Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend was negotiated through a transfer of shares in a company rather than the direct sale of the property," Ms Burton said.
"That process attracts 1pc stamp duty, whereas the usual sale of this Ä400m site property would have attracted the top rate of stamp duty at 9pc.
"Through a loophole not available to first-time buyers or ordinary householders, those involved in this deal have avoided stamp duty of around Ä30m."
The use of a licensing arrangement whereby land is not actually sold but a 'licence to build' is granted is another lucrative way of avoiding stamp duty, she added, pointing out that stamp duty only arises when the property or land is actually conveyed.
"After I raised this in the Dail, the Minister told me he is having the Revenue Commissioners examine licence-to-build arrangements and the amount of stamp duty that is avoided on foot of them.
"Both of these schemes of avoiding paying stamp duty by millionaire developers stands in stark contrast to first-time buyers, who in 2006 will end up paying Ä70m in stamp duty. This arose for the most part on second-hand homes costing over Ä317,000."
The Minister failed in his recent Budget to provide any reform of stamp duty for first-time buyers and those others purchasing a modest home to live in, she said. He also fell short of reforming these unfair and unequal practices by big business.
Senan Molony(Irish Independent)
By JOHN DILLON
Sunday IndependentNovember 25 2007
In a comment in this paper just before the election last summer, I ventured to say , paraphrasing The Life of Brian, something to the effect that 'Bertie is not the Messiah. He is a very naughty boy.' I think that I was right in that view, though the majority of voters, in their great wisdom, still preferred to take him as the Messiah after all.
More light has been cast since then on some of his personal financial peccadillos, but I think that it would be misleading to focus of those when estimating the full extent of his naughtiness -- and that of his close associates, such as Finance Ministers Charlie McCreevy and Brian Cowen.
What I would regard as their chief sin, in fact, and the one that impacts on the lives of virtually the whole of the younger generation of this country, is their conniving at the ripping-off of the home-buying public (and in particular the first-time buyers, who will be mainly the young) by the builders and the banks -- while also indulging in their own share of rip off by means of a creative manipulation of the originally rather marginal charge of stamp duty.
If I look back to the purchase of our first home in 1973 -- this, admittedly, in California rather in Ireland, but the rules than obtaining were pretty similar here -- our bank, the Bank of America, had a set of clear guidelines covering the granting of a mortgage, which were fair and rational, and worked perfectly well. First of all, they would not grant a mortgage for more that 80 per cent of the purchase price; and secondly, the mortgage could not be for more than two-and-a-half times your gross annual income.
So there you were. I don't know who had originally made these rules, whether the banks themselves or a federal regulatory body, but they had the admirable effect both of protecting the banks' investment, and of imposing some cap on the recklessness of purchasers, and the greed of builders and speculators.
One simply cannot raise the price of housing beyond what the buying public can pay, at least if one wants to sell houses in any great numbers. If one can't actually produce a house for what the buyer can afford, then of course the whole process grinds to a halt, to no one's advantage.
That has not, however, been a problem in recent years. Rather, in Celtic Tiger Land, on Planet Bertie, the opposite has been the case.
There came to be, over the last 10 years or so, no price so fantastic and outrageous that one could ask for one's Luxury Home (always luxury, we may note, never just ordinary) that there would not be a stampede of frantic punters beating down your door, waving their cheque-books and begging to allowed to buy 'off the plans.'
Now, these people did not, in general, have the money to make these purchases.
They only thought they did. They were cruelly deceived both by the seductions of a banking system exempted from all governmental control -- handing out 100 per cent mortgages for as much as 10 times one's annual income -- and a building industry, aided and abetted by the government, which was fostering a spirit of recklessness in the acquisition of property on the insane premise that it could only continue indefinitely to appreciate at an ever-increasing rate.
The warnings of responsible economists, from such sources as the ESRI and the Central Bank, and, ultimately, even from the OECD, were brushed aside, not least by Bertie himself, as the moanings of nay-sayers and prophets of doom, who would be much better employed going out and hanging themselves -- and for a few glorious years they were indeed proved wrong, and the boosters and promoters apparently vindicated.
But now the chickens have come home to roost, and it becomes, I fear, all too sadly clear what a scam it all was.
But what should a responsible government have done, you may ask? Well, firstly, they should have imposed strict limits on mortgage lending. that would have controlled the supply of funny money.
Secondly, they should, from the outset of this housing boom (as was done in such responsible societies as Sweden, for example, in the case of the post-war expansion of Stockholm), have imposed firm regulations on the profits to be made from building land on the periphery of Dublin, in particular.
The city fathers of Stockholm simply took an option on all land on the periphery of Stockholm, compulsorily purchasing it as required, paying the owners a reasonable premium over its previous value as farming land, and prescribing to builders what services they should provide along with the houses or apartments that they erected.
But that is socialism, you protest. We can't have that here! And yet Bertie has declared himself to be the only true socialist in Irish public life.
If that were so, this would have been an ideal area in which to practice his principles. But then the receipts in the tent at the Galway races, and at so many other venues, would have fallen away very drastically. And where would that leave the Cause?