Unfortunately, housing is an area where Colm does not shine. We’ve seen the failures of the free market in both directions i.e. massive overbuilding in the boom followed by a total failure to build in the past 10 years but, somehow, Colm always blames the same people: the politicians and the NIMBY locals and, boom or bust, he always proposes the same solution - rezoning. He never asks the broader questions e.g. what kind of development results in liveable communities, what is the relationship between the politicians and the builders? Why did we end up with ghost estates in Longford and why did building grind to a total halt? Yes, there are rolling acres of greenfield sites around the M50 but what would it cost to develop them properly i.e. not just access roads and sewage but schools and public transport and recreation centres? Colm is humming the builders’ tune - get the tax payer to fund everything and then clear the way for the builders to cash in.
There is a serious political issue in relying on a free market to develop our cities. The votes of home buyers vastly outnumber those of the builders but, paradoxically, our politicians are beholden to the builders. There is plenty of outrage about the egregious offenders (the Liam Lawlors, the Frank Dunlops, the crowds in the Galway Races Tent) but the systemic problem is rarely discussed and, sadly, Colm McCarthy prefers to ignore it. Ireland is an extreme example perhaps because, at least until the bust, builders and developers were deemed to be members of a rare species, “native entrepreneurs” (not rent-seekers) and, hence, worthy of special protection.