THE fraught interface between the market and public need is seen in stark terms in our dysfunctional housing market. Business, naturally, puts the necessity of profit before social projects.
That is the accepted norm and we must deal with the consequences — that is why we have a housing minister trying to resolve a crisis more than a decade in the making.
Over the weekend Retail Excellence (RE), an organisation that represents retailers, pointed to another property-market practice that seems, at best undesirable. RE warned that the potential of more than a dozen town centres is in question because large stores in pivotal locations have been closed.
The stores’ owners have made no effort to sell or rent these premises to others. RE claims that this is a deliberate policy to block potential rivals.
Every city and every town in Ireland is blighted by closed and deteriorating business premises, many of which cannot support a viable business. It seems incongruous that premises in a town centre might be closed indefinitely just to block a new business and the jobs it might create.
This also suggests that property owners assume the power of a planning authority by defining the character and purpose of a town centre.
RE has suggested that this practice be discouraged by the imposition of levies or vacant-property taxes. This seems a reasonable suggestion, especially as it would do a lot to prevent the dereliction of our town centres.
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