James Doyle Calls for Housing Solution (Greystones Guide):
Home seekers in North Wicklow face a future of unattainable house prices and exorbitant rent rates if action is not taken to address the escalating housing shortage. That’s the bottom-line for the county councils’s Housing Committee according to James Doyle, who was a candidate in the recent local elections.
Praising the newly elected council’s decision to set up a strategic policy committee dedicated to housing Doyle described the announcement as a “symbolic first step” in addressing the various, yet inter-connected, housing concerns of Wicklow residents.
“People want a place to call home and due to a mixture of government hesitation, and misguided notions of economic recovery, that basic human desire to rent or buy is slipping through the fingers of Wicklow residents. For those looking to rent the stats show that year on year rents have risen by 9%. House prices are also on the rise.”
Pointing to Ireland’s recent experience of economic disaster and social deprivation Doyle warned that “unless we wake up to the madness of allowing, or worse still, encouraging, house prices and rents to rise at a rate several multiples of any rise in household incomes we are staring down the barrel of another economic and social crisis.”
“Our County Council’s task, as I see it, is two fold. First up there is the immediate problem of rent allowance thresholds falling way short of private rental market realities.”
Doyle disclosed to the Wicklow Times that the Department of Social Protection confirmed to him that no adjustments to rent allowance levels for Wicklow are planned this year. “This is an unfortunate state of affairs for young people trying to secure full time employment and support themselves and their family. I appreciate the administrative cost that frequent changes to the allowance levels might involve but until something is done to reduce the rate of inflation ordinary people will suffer.”
Acknowledging that power to make changes lies with the Minister’s department Doyle called for “all members of the new Housing Committee on the County Council to do all within their powers to make the case for realistic rent allowance rates for Wicklow residents and have confidence in their mandate to do so.”
Turning to the second task at hand, the lack of housing stock, Doyle believes the County Council need to make building a priority for its term of office. “It used to be the case that we had too many houses, and in parts of the country we still do. But in Wicklow, as in Dublin, the massive escalation in house prices and rents can be boiled down to the simple fact that demand is leaping ahead of supply.”
Recalling his time renting during the housing boom Doyle said “back then young people were paying 30% or 40% of our take home pay in rent, friends looking to buy were being handed mortgages at 13 or 14 times their annual income levels. That was a mistake. As a society we vowed at the ballot box never to let that happen again.”
“Yet if we’re not careful that’s precisely what could happen” he warned. Having spent the last few months speaking with residents on his election campaign Doyle recounted how “young people, in particular, are baffled at the idea that a mini-boom would kick-off so soon after the last catastrophe. On one level they wonder whether we have learned anything; at another level they question when, if ever, will they be able to afford to own or rent a place to call home.”
The only way to decisively address the problem is for government and council to work together to ensure that quality housing, with proper planning and linked up utility, amenity and transport supports is built. “This government and the new council has the opportunity to implement a joined-up, and well thought-out, solution to housing that respects economic realities and caters for social need in Wicklow.”
Highlighting the need for progressive reform and people’s apathy with “punch and judy politics” Doyle concluded “It’s not rocket-science but it will take dedication and focus. People can see-through political football and populist freebies. I wish the new Housing committee well in rising to the challenge.”
To read my article on the Greystones Guide website click here.