Government and Builders solution to Housing crisis: Lower standards of houses and increase profits!

Alan Kelly , the labour minister for the Environment, has lined up with building bosses in trying to stop local councils implementing higher standards in house building.

Socialist Worker

Alan Kelly , the labour minister for the Environment, has lined up with building bosses in trying to stop local councils implementing higher standards in house building. DLR council had adopted the so called “Passive House” standard in house building and wanted to force all new housing projects to conform to this code. The move represents a minimal first step in any serious effort to cut Co2 emissions and raise industry standards to insure that scandals like Priory Hall never happen again . But Kelly and Construction Industry head Tom Parlon are trying to scupper the plan. Kelly has warned that such high standards may hit his housing plans and result in less private homes been completed . This again proves the utter hopelessness of the Governments Housing strategy. It relies completely on the market supplying homes that local authorities can then rent out to people in need of housing. The Govtwont contemplate actually investing directly to provide homes for people, everything must be provided via the market. Unfortunately the market, in the shape of Parlon and the CIF want to insure profits for themselves and thus their concern that new standards might hit their profit margins.

Parlon is an ex Progressive Democrat minister in the corrupt Ahern/McCreevy Government, and he continues to tout his ability to influence Government policies in his role as CIF head. He famously spent $13000 on Limousine hire while on a trip to the USas a minister, but had no problem in trying to force a 10% cut in electrician’s wages when he became CIF heador in attacking public sector workers.The CIF objections are couched interms of being concerned about the affordability of houses for first time buyers. They claim that higher standards will make it unprofitable as buyers can’t afford higher prices. The same group were cheerleaders for the boom time house price bubble that netted their members massive profits while resulting in ghost estates and unfinished houses across the country. In cases like Priory Hall, people were forced out of their homes when it became known that developers had not even built to basic current standards.Health and safety codes were ignored and people’s lives endangered by poor standards and cost cutting by Parlon’s friends. The CIF have no problems with rising prices, they just don’t want any state regulations to interfere with the working of the market. Instead they have proposed their own industry self-regulations which disgracefully have been adopted by the Government in upcoming legislation.

Ironically Kelly is also responsible for reducing the country’s Co2 emissions to fight climate change. The proposed adoption of the “Passive House” codes would have gone some way to curbing Co2 emission rates as they use renewable energy sources and highlevelsof insulation thus cutting energy needs dramatically. But Kelly, like Labour in general, is in thrall to free market ideology and can’t stomach the idea of regulations interfering with profits, even if it’s to save the planet or provide basic needs such as housing.   His “Housing Strategy”, which Labour claim will solve the chronic housing crisis relies on the market providing houses that the state can then rent out. This in turn relies on the market seeing sufficient profit in providing houses, regardless of what need may exist. The planwon’t see any increase in the stock of local authority house numbers and thus will not address the real source of the current crisis ; the lack of sufficient local authority housing for people who need accommodation. Instead the state will effectively be subsidising the private rental market which is great news for builders and landlords but will not address issues like tenants security of tenure or rental affordability. Kelly wants councils to facilitate the private house building industry and not impose any standards above the national minimum requirements.

The policy is a disaster for both the environment and for the country’s real housing needs. It may represent the worst long term legacy of Kelly and Labour which is some achievement for a minister that is still committed to trying to force in water charges!

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