Re: Re: The Irish Town – Dying At The Crossroads?

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Anonymous
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It is difficult not to agree with much of what Paul Keogh has to say in the cited article. Where Ireland has really fallen down is transport – we have a crap offer – and economic development, i.e. employment creation, a reasonable prospect of which should be in place before new planning is granted in a rural area. For example, Kenmare has several hundred houses for sale and no recent industrial development; nearby, Sneem, a village of about 600 people, has more than one hundred new houses unoccupied/unsold and no industries. Neither has a public transport system, Sneem has no wired broadband and the contention rate in Kenmare is so high it often is little better than GPRS..

Until the recent puncture of our economic property bubble, property prices increased in Ireland for 50-odd consecutive quarters, which is the longest property boom recorded by the OECD. Most of that growth supported a huge increase in service industries, which, outside of the Public Sector, mostly was construction related, building houses for workers to live in while building more houses. “Real” employment creation was almost nonexistent. We can have all the planning and design feature aspirations we like (and most Irish town or rural dwellers would not recognise good design if it hit them in the face!) but we need job creation, Broadband roll-out and transport availability first.
Proper control of planning is now more critical than ever. It is saddening to see the five-year extension now being granted to developers on what is in the “approved” pipeline. Though I suppose the government wants to prolong the evil day of crystallizing pie-in-the-sky projects.

I contend that it is not appropriate to make comparisons between the US property market and that in Ireland. While some of the US cities have vast swathes of empty properties, most of those once were occupied, unlike the never-occupied new-builds we have here. In the US empty properties are a result of a combination of rising unemployment, defaulted loans (most of which never should have been granted to no-hopers), subsequent repossessions and an ability to easily file for various levels of personal bankruptcy.

While we now have increasing unemployment and some defaults at consumer level, personal bankruptcy is almost unknown in Ireland. (We equally are quite different to the UK, where, in 2005, they had more than 47,000 bankruptcies. That year the Republic of Ireland had 9.) Nor do we have the IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement), a formal agreement with creditors that can allow for debt write-off by an individual and repayment of only a percentage of the debt by way of monthly payments. This year, there will be considerably more than 100,000 of those in the UK.

Planners acquiesced to political pressure and either did not do their job or protest loudly enough,. Shopkeepers in small towns and villages in the last few decades built up land banks as a result of taking a field here or there in lieu of payment for debts run up in the shop. Some locals, more interested in drink than farming, would sell a field or two for drink money. Shopkeepers and publicans, incentivised by tax credits, became property developers and built “holiday villages” to conform to local planning guidelines. Bogs – and I mean bogs – had villages of houses built on them and marketed as tax incentivised “holiday home investment properties.” Most prospective buyers i.e. those with borrowing ability, worked in cities and fancied the idea of a place in the country. Almost nobody stopped to ask if the product matched the purchaser, whose idea was a “house in the country” and not a poxy Lego-like box crammed into a holiday home ghetto built in a bog on the fringe of town/village in the middle of no-where.

The present catastrophe of ghost ghetto villages will be much more difficult from which to extricate ourselves. Nobody will buy these houses for a variety of reasons, and design is far down that list. The one that is never talked about is that there is a fear that the local builder/developer will, under pressure from the local bank manager, ask the local councillor to buy a few houses in a development for social housing for itinerantsor unmarried mothers. Mr & Mrs aspiring holiday home owner most certainly do not want to have their holiday retreat next door to a local no-good or a series of unmarried mothers or resettled latchicos & go-boys. If some of these houses are bought for Local Authority use, they will be condemned to remain so as there is neither employment nor the prospect of employment in the type of village where they are built. Nor will anyone buy the remaining houses, so the LA will again step in and ghetto creation will be complete.
So, no sales, bankrupt builders, unfinished estates, growing dereliction and if a cash-strapped government of any hue re-introduces domestic rates, we will see what happened to the old houses in post war Ireland – we may see them bulldozed.
K.

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