Eoin Ó Broin #PoliticalConstructs Ep25

It’s often said that the current confidence and supply agreement (New Politics) has left us with a ‘do nothing Dáil’. Well today’s guest, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid West, Eoin Ó Broin would challenge that. As a writer and political activist Eoin is a constant voice for what he calls a fair recovery. As party spokesperson for Housing, Planning and local government Eoin was a member of the Oireachtas Housing Committee that our previous guest, architect Mel Reynolds spoke so highly of.

With Irish Politics undergoing so much generational change, people like Eoin, working in bipartisan groups, can help bring on that fairer recovery that he is speaks so passionately about.

They discuss:
Some Dublin GAA
The generational change in politics, Sinn Fein and the wider Dáil
Eoin’s solutions to the housing crisis
Why it’s about building communities and not just houses
How Traveller accommodation and those with disabilities are nearly always forgotten.
We finish with a chat about Eoin’s recent spat with the Irish Times and the media relationship with politics in general.

Mel Reynolds #TheFixer Ep 24 pt2


Welcome back to our conversation with architect, project manager, certified passive house designer and writer with Village magazine, Mel Reynolds.
In part one Mel broke down why the private developer market cannot build affordable homes and how the state could. In this next part we discuss:
Why the moral hazard argument is cutting off your nose to spite your face.
How the Rent Pressure Zones have helped create an upwards only rental market.
Why the most optimistic scenario for the Buy to Let repossessions could see a trebling of homelessness.

Finally, Mel gives us 3 relatively cheap and effective solutions that could start to turn the tide. These ideas are so sensible and make so much financial sense that it is a wonder our government haven’t addressed them already.

Money Problems

 

The following is an accompaniment to part 1 of our chat with Mel Reynolds:

Money is not a problem. A simple sentence, repeated over and over by Housing Minister after Housing Minister. Five words designed to give the impression that the Government are throwing all the necessary resources at tackling the housing crisis. Money is not a problem.

Maybe money should be a problem. In fact, given Fine Gael’s self-styled nonsense about being the party of the fiscally responsible, money should be placed at the very centre of the housing crisis.

Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe nearly guffawed on RTE last week when he parodied Oliver Callan parodying himself. When told Miriam that “I’ve only got a certain amount of money” I grimaced. No one in the RTE studios thought to ask why the Minister(s) for Housing keeps saying “money is not a problem”, when the Minister for Finance clearly thinks very differently.

But this little insight into the lack of Fine Gael economic insight aside, the real issue is that money really isn’t a problem. It’s the squandering of it that is.

I’ve been lucky to sit down and chat with a host of experts on the housing crisis, all of whom agree on one thing. Fine Gael aren’t putting the resources into the right areas. The economic reality is that this government, the one so obsessed with the Debt to GDP ratio, are burning money.

Take the homeless hubs, or as Mary McAuliffe calls them poor warehouses. The average of cost of housing a family in €69,000. Dublin City Council currently have over 950 vacant units in need of a refurbishment. The cost of the refurbishment would be between €30-50k and the works could be completed in a few months.

For €47 million we could give 950 families a home, a permanent home. Instead, in November 2017 alone over 1,530 families were accessing emergency accommodation. The average time spent in the emergency accommodation system is 3 years. In “money is not a problem” world that’s a cost of about €316 million. €316m to warehouse a national disgrace, or €47m to make a serious effort to address it.

If Fine Gael want to be taken seriously as custodians of the economy, and they do, then they need to address their economic lunacy in tackling the housing crisis.

But wait, there’s more. The current crisis isn’t just a homelessness crisis, there’s also a drastic crisis in the availability of affordable housing. Affordable housing should be, by definition, housing that is affordable to the average worker. Taking the latest CSO stats on a double income household and current mortgage lending rules the cost of an Affordable Home should be in or around €240k.

Yet in “money is not a problem” world the state are buying homes and selling them to people at a 15% discount on the market value. Given that the average cost of a house in Dublin is now €365k this is not affordable housing, nor is it anywhere in reach of the average couple.

This wouldn’t be such a disgusting waste of money if it wasn’t for the fact that, as shown by the Ó Cualann Cooperative, family homes can be built for between €151-168K. That’s affordable housing. It can be done quickly, cheaply and to high building standards. I know, I’ve seen them.    

The State could do this on a wide scale, but they are married to private developers and the “free-rigged-market”. The money that is not a problem, is going to developers, at roughly 2.5 times the cost per unit when compared to the Ó Cualann Cooperative.

Finally, for today, there’s another black hole that is swallowing money that is not a problem. It’s called the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and it devours over half a billion euro a year. HAP as a temporary scheme is a good idea, as Mel Reynolds told me, “you need to keep the patient alive”. But as a long term strategy it is disastrous, socially and (are you listening Fine Gael) economically.

The average HAP payment is €825 per month. A mortgage of say €190k over 20yrs at 3.5% would have a monthly repayment of €800. Now, if the government wanted to they could borrow money at near 0% rates, build houses, or pay someone like Ó Cualann to build them and rent the homes on long term leases, SAVE the state a fortune in HAP and other rent assistance schemes and still own the underlying asset.

These things aren’t complex. What we are doing now is complex. Fine Gael are supposed to be the party that fixes the economy. But they are burning money by choosing the most costly solutions to the crisis.

We need a real plan, it’s no longer any good Eoghan Murphy sticking his finger in the dyke, unless there’s an affordable housing scheme getting built behind him. So listen out for the “money is not a problem” mantra and tell them straight, “no, but it should be, it is the economy, stupid”.

Image result for finger in the dyke

Tony Groves January 2017

 

Mel Reynolds #SolutionsArchitect Ep24 pt1

Returning our series of podcasts on Homelessness and the Housing Crisis, Martin and Tony are delighted to be joined in the tortoise shack by architect, project manager, certified passive house designer and writer with Village magazine, Mel Reynolds. Mel has the tenacity to take the Department of Housing reports, the Rebuilding Ireland Reports and even the Oireachtas Housing Reports, read them, cut through the spin and get to the facts.
Needless to say, Mel’s work is and should be the starting point for people who want to know what the real numbers are and what are the solutions.

In part 1 Mel explains why the underlying assumptions on the housing market are wrong, and have been wrong for 40 years.
Why an affordable home cannot be built by the private sector currently.
Why the government housing stats, putting it mildly, aren’t reliable.
Why it’s a Landlords market.
The Land Casino that is the relationship between new house prices and land prices.
Can we get a real affordable housing scheme?
The HAP Trap and why Fine Gael are financially illiterate here.

Paddy Cole #HardLabour Ep.23

Martin and Tony are delighted to be joined in the tortoise shack by trade unionist, SIPTU worker, Labour national executive member, defender of the badge, stirrer of pots, proper bearded Lefty and soon to be a father, Paddy Cole.

They discuss:
Labour in power 2011-16.
Whether it’s fair that Labour as the minority party in government get the majority of the blame.
What now for the party?
Paddy talks about the Trade Union movement and why only a bottom up, rather than top down, approach can bring about real change.
This is a tough and sometimes thorny conversation, but we are very grateful to Paddy for coming on, taking the hits and to be able to give them back.

Some strong language and some even stronger opinions throughout.

Paddy Cole #FireAndFury Ep 23 Trailer

A very quick excerpt from our conversation with member of the Labour Party National Executive and proper bearded Lefty, Paddy Cole.

Contains some strong language and some very strong opinions. You’ve been warned.

Garvan Grant #TrueishPodcast Episode 22

Martin and Tony are delighted to be joined in the tortoise shack by editor and co-founder of Traffic Content, author of the humorous book The Trueish History of Ireland, former journalist with The Sunday Business Post and the number one source for fake-fake news on Twitter, Garvan Grant.

After Tony exposes his man-crush they discuss:
The future of print; mainstream media in the social media age
The good and bad sides of social media
Satire as a tool for change and some of the best fun twitter accounts around
Trump Twitter, Leo Twitter and who can you bloody vote for these days!

Garvan has kindly given us a copy of his book for one lucky listener. All you need to do is tweet the podcast after you’ve listened and tag Garvan @garvangrant

Sorry about the earlier technical difficulties, Martin has no idea what he’s doing…

Strong language, maybe.