Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Group demands housing market probe

An academic institution has called on an independent probe into what it calls the Government's catastrophic failure to control the property bubble

An independent inquiry is needed into the Government's catastrophic failure to control the property bubble, a state-funded academic institution has said.

In a scathing report, the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (Nirsa) also demanded a full investigation into charges of cronyism in the planning process.

Furthermore, the body which examines how the country is developing branded the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) a worrying organisation set up as part of a response to protect developers - potentially at the expense of taxpayers.

Professor Rob Kitchin, director of Nirsa, said a fully-fledged probe into planning decisions and alleged close links between politicians and property speculators is necessary if the housing market is to recover.

"An independent inquiry is needed to investigate all aspects of the planning system and its operation within and across different agencies and at all scales in Ireland, including charges of localism, cronyism and clientelism," he said.

Prof Kitchin said it would be foolhardy to carry out a banking inquiry without also looking into planning mistakes.

In a 66-page report into the crisis, Nirsa lays blame for the spectacular property boom and bust squarely with the Government and local councils. Light touch regulation and tax incentive schemes administered by a political system infected by those in power favouring friends were the chief culprits, it suggests.

Planning guidelines, regional and national objectives as well as proper assessment of demand for housing were thrown out the window, it claims.

Nirsa says the so-called solution to the crisis - Nama, banking bailouts and nationalisation - is a worrying short-term move involving "the protection of the interests of developers and speculators at the potential expense of the taxpayer."

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