herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Pay builders on dole to help these cheated families

It was heartbreaking to see the appalling conditions endured by hundreds of families on the country's ghost estates.

And it was hard not to feel outrage at the predicament of the desperate young couples who bought into these estates at the top of the property market in good faith.

Most of these homeowners featured in the current RTE documentary Aftershock did not have a hope of getting on to the property ladder in Dublin due to the crazy prices at the peak of the boom.

They were prepared to move out of the city to invest in fine new homes in the burgeoning dormitory towns, even if it meant an awful daily commute.

These young people, whose only motivation was to create decent homes for themselves, never for a minute envisaged that, a few years on, the builders would have gone bust -- leaving them living in half-finished estates with no basic services such as proper sewage, lighting, and rubbish collection. There are 621 so-called ghost estates across the country, an ugly legacy indeed of the Celtic Tiger years.

It's not the fault of hard-working couples -- who fell victim to greedy bankers and builders and a planning system that was far too loose -- that they find themselves in the appalling position they are in, with absolutely no way out.

There were clips on the TV programme of people saying we are all responsible for this mess. Not the case.

Their only crime was to work their guts out through the Celtic Tiger years so they could afford a home to live in and raise their families.



SCARY

It is worrying to hear a lot of talk recently that losses should be cut and that these estates be demolished. What is really scary is this is one option that has not been ruled out by the junior partner in Government, the Green Party.

But demolition is NOT the answer.

Under no circumstances should the bulldozers be called in. That does not make sense when people are homeless and hundreds are on local authority housing waiting lists all over Ireland. If the Government is serious about recovery, and learning the mistakes of the past, it should get to work very quickly on transforming, and not demolishing, these estates.

These places were built with hard labour and even in their unfinished state, they would be treasured property in a less well-off country than ours.

God knows there are enough idle builders in the country that could be sent in to finish them off. Let the State pay them a bit more than they get on the dole. They will have more money in their pockets and a sense of purpose again.

There is an opportunity for those in power to look after the people who have been become innocent victims of the crash.

If recovery is around the corner, what better way to mark it than to sort out some of the mess left behind by the boom.

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