In Ireland of 2014 the long term fall-out from previous government policies is becoming apparent.
Successive regimes have demonstrated an endemic lack of vision. Their policies were shaped by short-term expedience. They plucked the low-hanging fruit, made hay while the sun shone and took the quick wins, safe in the knowledge that they’d be long retired on comfortable pensions before the chickens came home to roost.
And now the chicken apocalypse is upon us!
Social housing is probably one of the major issues that has come back to bite us in the ass.
For decades, local authorities provided high quality social housing in our cities and charged its occupants affordable rents.
During the 1970s and 80s government policy was to actively promote home ownership, leading to the sale of huge volumes of local authority housing to tenants. This policy was foolish and misguided. The local authorities lost valuable assets, the stock of social housing was severely depleted, the original occupants went on to sell the properties for multiples of what they originally paid during the boom years and we are now facing a homeless crisis in our capital.
The state should have been investing in social infrastructure during the credit years but instead its policy was to give cash hand-outs in the form of rent supplement.
This was a very short-term solution, and now that lack of supply has driven rents to unprecedented heights, those in receipt of rent supplement have been priced out of the market.
Analogous instances can be found in Children’s Allowance payments which the state historically gave in place of investing in Child Care facilities. Again demonstrating their lack of long-term strategic vision.
If the state had allocated capital expenditure to assets like social housing and childcare, these would be fit for purpose today and save significant amounts in welfare payments, while also creating employment.
As things stand, our present government will be chasing its tail trying to play catch up with demand for years to come and will have to cobble together half-baked solutions when a little foresight could have avoided the problem entirely.
It’s symptomatic of a political caste in Ireland that avoids tacking long-term issues, splashes the cash today to buy cheap votes and pushes problems down the line for future generations to deal with.