Categories
Economics

Join the dots

There are some days when political myopia and an inability to join the dots is particularly difficult to accept. This is one.

On the one hand, we have the Simon Community’s latest annual report:

Over 1,400 people are forced to seek shelter in emergency accommodation in Dublin every night, according to the charity [Simon]. It believes there is little hope for these people of moving on to somewhere of their own in the long term, with at least 50% of people now stuck in emergency shelter for more than six months. The problem, it says, lies in the collapse of the private rented and social housing market, with additional housing also slow to come on stream.

On the other hand, we have these decisions from Dublin’s local authorities:

Dublin homeowners, the State’s biggest payers of local property tax, will have their bills cut next year, following the decision of councillors in three local authorities to lower the tax by 15 per cent. Dublin city councillors last night voted for the cut, despite warnings from chief executive Owen Keegan that the decision could hit homeless services.

Dublin’s local authorities are foregoing roughly €40m on an annual basis with these measures. The back of my envelope suggests that this amount, if used as collateral/deposit of one third to borrow the other two thirds, could have perhaps provided for building 1,000 units a year. I suggest bringing this up with your councillor the next time they knock on the door, proclaiming the virtues of knocking €80 off your property tax bill, while also claiming they will take action on homelessness.

There are two additional bitter pills to swallow. Firstly, this tax rebate is probably the most regressive one that could be dreamed up, with Ireland’s wealthiest citizens benefiting the most and the poorest third of society gaining nothing. And secondly, Ireland’s left-of-centre parties (particularly those not in Government) led the charge on this. The mind boggles.

Blame cannot lie entirely with local politicians, it must be said. Narrowly, if central government hadn’t given them a target of 15%, and instead let them do whatever they want with their property tax, but live with the consequences, things might have panned out differently.

More broadly, there will always be a segment of society who cannot afford to cover the costs involved in their accommodation, so there will always be a requirement for social housing. The government has long abdicated its duties in this regard.