“Why would I pay hard-earned taxes so people who don’t do anything all day can go to a home that’s being given away for free while I’ve been skimping on my mortgage for decades?”
It’s a common argument heard on our national airwaves when a significant minority of Irish people call or text any radio debate about social, affordable or subsidized housing.
These are our right-wingers, although most of them are centre-right. Every country has them, but we have fewer. And in general, our rights are less right than the others.
According to a recent poll, a bewildering 18 percent view themselves as either “right of center” or “far right.” In contrast, in 2019, 37 percent of US citizens identified themselves as “conservative,” while a 2019 poll of 21 western democracies found that an average of 27 percent were at least “center-right” in their views.
This is surprising given that most of our governments have been right of center politically for the last 10 years. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the historical inefficiency of the left in Ireland, together with the social composition of our politicians as a whole (more landowners and wealthy individuals).
A DCU report on digital audience attitudes across Ireland, released in June, examined, among other things, how we Irish view ourselves ideologically.
It states that 37 percent see themselves as either “left” or “left of center” in their political views. A smaller but similarly significant 34 percent (more than a third) see themselves as “middle”.
Only 18 percent self-identified as “right of center” or “far right” (down 2 percent from five years ago).
Like conservatives of various stripes elsewhere, our right tends to believe in a low-tax government committed to rewarding the wealthy for enterprise. They shy away from “rewarding” the poor, whom they believe are at least partially responsible for their own circumstances.
As in other countries, this group generally wants to see cuts in government welfare (including housing), tougher crime control measures, more police on the streets, and longer prison sentences.
They are usually stubbornly opposed to immigration and often (but not always) to modern gender politics. They are against fiscal recklessness and fiscal inefficiencies.
So here today, and for Ireland’s 18th percentile only, I will make a right-wing ideological argument for Ireland’s return to large-scale government-funded social housing.
To all the right-of-centre and blue-shirt types (eight percent are “far right”), I suspect you’re generally in favor of measures that (a) make you pay less tax in the long run, (b) are good for Irish companies and businesses are (c) good for the overall strength of the economy, (d) reducing government spending, (e) increasing educational performance and (f) reducing crime. Yes on all fronts? I think so.
My right housing solution consists of 100,000 accelerated family size social houses built, paid for and maintained by the Irish State/Taxpayer, probably at a cost of €35 billion (if each one costs €350,000 in total).
Also note that the concept of social housing has only been portrayed as ‘left’ by recent governments.
Even our most right-wing governments of the 1920s (which spawned the Blueshirts) saw the practical need for this and embarked on a massive subsidized housing plan. Fianna Fáil’s public housing construction of the 1930s built 17,000 public housing units by 1946.
My first argument is that large-scale social housing, especially today, is not a ‘left’ concept because it actually makes fiscal sense.
But right now, as a taxpayer, you’re shelling out a lot for social housing, albeit to the private sector. We all pay out half a billion HAP per year (2021) and for 60,000 households. That’s half a billion “dead money” for the taxpayer. If rents rise and more and more small landlords get out, this can only increase.
In the meantime, the large international funds are stepping into the void via the REIT model.
Since we won’t be returning to the poorhouses anytime soon, you’ll have to pay even more taxes to support public housing in the future unless there’s a more efficient, lower-cost alternative that’s implemented quickly.
Smart companies from around the world, admired by the right for their entrepreneurship and ingenuity, are now flocking to Ireland to invest in homes and rent them out at increasing rates to those who cannot afford to buy them .
Right now (because they are smart and our government is either complicit or stupid) they are using a favorable tax regime given to them by this state to eliminate competition from the mostly small private rental sector that dominated the rental sector before they arrived.
Their competitive success is leading the big funds to capture the real estate market, increasing the value of real estate and hence the cost of private housing for everyone, whether buying or renting. Now it’s in your backyard.
This discourages foreign direct investment. More seriously, it is having a direct impact on Irish businesses and businesses as more and more of younger people’s disposable income is spent on rent. And because of the low-tax model, the increasing proportion of income that goes into rents is increasingly being exported directly out of the country. In the billions. Through the funds. The sharks will eat your lunch no matter what side of the political divide you’re on.
So shouldn’t the government invest smarter in housing and stop wasting your tax dollars on all the “dead” money paid to the increasingly fund-managed private rental sector?
My argument is that large scale government-developed and owned public housing (especially at such high market rents) would eventually generate more government revenue than expenditure in the long run, even if public housing is rented well below market levels.
An investment of €35 billion brings 100,000 households out of the private rental sector. It’s huge money, but not impossible in an emergency, not just for housing, but for a massive depletion of disposable income. Bear in mind that the current eight-year transport plan assigned to Secretary Eamon Ryan has a budget of 35 billion euros and no one has fussed about it.
We raised an additional €35 billion in Covid-19 support in the first year of our national debt. Like Secretary Ryan’s haul money, it’s an investment. It should give us cash back and keep it from bleeding out the economy.
The rents are now so high that even a third of the market rents benefit the state in the long term. So instead of the private sector charging €3,000 a month for a house and then exporting that money, the government charges €1,000 and keeps it in the country… and indexes it to future inflation.
After 30 to 35 years, 100,000 government budgets have paid for themselves and continue to earn today’s equivalent of 1 billion euros per year, instead of throwing away half a billion “dead” money.
Such an investment also represents a crackdown on future crime and social disorder and dampens future social costs. Stable tenancies make for stable kids, not disjointed and traumatized little people constantly going back and forth between schools and friends, as is the case now.
Entrepreneurs not only have better opportunities with more disposable income, they also have more equity to spend developing their business. Therefore, the only “right thing” now is to spend a lot and quickly on social housing.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/social-housing-as-a-right-wing-solution-to-crisis-41972500.html Social housing as a right-wing solution to the crisis