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‘If I was minister for housing’ … David McWilliams’s plan for €220k homes

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If economist David McWilliams were minister for housing he’d introduce “a site-value tax in the morning”, he told Irish Times political correspondent Jennifer Bray at the Summer Nights Festival on Monday night.

“You’d take lots and lots of flak”, McWilliams concedes “but you know being popular isn’t what it’s all about.”

“If you are sitting on a piece of land that you do not use, that is a waste. So consequently what we have to do, is we have to make it expensive to do that, and therefore what we do is what’s called a site-value tax, and we tax the site value and not the actual house”, he explains.

“I can tell you there hasn’t been an intervention in the housing market that hasn’t caused prices to rise in my lifetime”, The Irish Times columnist said, adding that he believes this is down to “inertia”. “It’s just this is the way we’ve been doing things for a while.”

“Land has been hoarded by landowners, and the reason they hoard land is that we have locked ourselves into a silly situation, whereby if you get planning permission it doesn’t have an immediate sell by date.”

“You’ve got to have a use-it-or-lose-it planning permission,” McWilliams said, which would put an end to land hoarding and “release lots and lots of land that’s now being planned into supply”.

“Probably the most criminal, architectural, urban blight that we have, is the fact that we have so many derelict properties. We’ve derelict properties when we have a housing crisis.” This, McWilliams said, is because there are no rewards or penalties for good and bad behaviour.

“Good behaviour is taking an old building and putting it back into use.” “Bad behaviour is taking a roof off a building, as we see all the time in Dublin and all around the country.”

McWilliams argued that we need to penalise inappropriate owners and “reward appropriate owners that bring things into use”.

McWilliams drew a comparison between the Covid-19 crisis and how the country “galvanised itself into an emergency footing in a very short period of time”. “I think that housing should be declared a national emergency and everybody should try to do their part in order to fix it.”

Developers and builders should be “brought into the tent. You talk to co-operative people. You talk to the banking sector and you say ‘listen we need to do this. We have a target and we’re going to put the State behind it’.”

Co-operatives offer another potential solution to the housing crisis, McWilliams explained. “Ó Cualann [housing development] is a co-operative … It’s not any great mystery. You pool your resources with the objective of creating a co-op that produces housing at the least price.” (A house with the co-operative, Jennifer Bray noted, could cost as little as €220,000.)

“And then what you also do, because everyone’s part of a co-operative, there’s actually quite a significant in-built community building, because everyone’s part of something. And if you want to leave the co-op and you want to move on, you leave the co-op and you sell your share on co-op. The point is it’s not based on land prices, so it stops land speculation and that’s hugely important”.

The Irish Times Summer Nights Festival, sponsored by Peugeot, is a series of online talks featuring Irish Times journalists in conversation with local and international authorities. It runs until Thursday July 1st.

Still to come in the festival are: Mary Lou McDonald in conversation with Kathy Sheridan; Chris de Burgh talking to Paul Howard; Maureen Dowd interviewed by Hugh Linehan; Gordon Brown and Roddy Doyle talking to Fintan O’Toole; Mona Eltahawy with Róisín Ingle; and Jo Spain talking to Bernice Harrison. A ticket covering all events costs €50, or €25 for Irish Times subscribers.

Full schedule and tickets from irishtimes.com/summernights.

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Grade II listed East Sussex family home with a clock tower can be yours for £2.5million

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A striking property on the south coast with its own clock tower is currently up for grabs for £2.5million.

The Clock House is a Grade II listed building in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

It has an impressive clock tower that boasts has four clocks made by B L Vulliamy, the clockmaker to King George III.

The property has been in the same family for more than 30 years and is now being sold by M&W Sales and Lettings.

This unusual property is called the Clock House and it is a Grade II listed building in the East Sussex coastal town of St Leonards-on-Sea

This unusual property is called the Clock House and it is a Grade II listed building in the East Sussex coastal town of St Leonards-on-Sea

The Clock House has an opulent interior with arched doorways and windows framing the views of the surrounding garden

The Clock House has an opulent interior with arched doorways and windows framing the views of the surrounding garden

This living area has a large Tv sitting above a feature fireplace, colourful drape curtains and dark decorative wallpaper

This living area has a large Tv sitting above a feature fireplace, colourful drape curtains and dark decorative wallpaper 

The impressive property was constructed by the architect James Burton and his son Decimus Burton in 1827, who were behind many of the Georgian buildings in London

The impressive property was constructed by the architect James Burton and his son Decimus Burton in 1827, who were behind many of the Georgian buildings in London

The property was one of the first buildings constructed by the architect James Burton and his son Decimus Burton in 1827.

The pair were responsible for many of the historic homes along the South Coast, Tunbridge Wells and London. They were behind much of the building of Georgian London, including being responsible for large areas of Bloomsbury, as well as St John’s Wood and Clapham Common. James also collaborated with John Nash at Regent’s Park.

In 1828, he started building a new season town at St Leonards, based closely on his experiences at Regents Park.

There is a clock tower with four clocks, which were made by B L Vulliamy, the clockmaker to King George III

There is a clock tower with four clocks, which were made by B L Vulliamy, the clockmaker to King George III

There is a multi-coloured tiled floor in the entrance hallway

There are several feature windows at the Clock House

The property has plenty of interesting features, including arched windows and multi-coloured tiled floors in the hallway

This living room has some large dark sofas, a central chandelier, wooden floors and several candle holders

This living room has some large dark sofas, a central chandelier, wooden floors and several candle holders

This hallway has a colourful gold and red wallpaper with coordinating fabric on the sofa as well as dark wooden flooring

This hallway has a colourful gold and red wallpaper with coordinating fabric on the sofa as well as dark wooden flooring

This colourful bedroom has a patterned red wallpaper, red curtains, red window frames and a matching red ceiling

This colourful bedroom has a patterned red wallpaper, red curtains, red window frames and a matching red ceiling 

The Clock House retains many impressive features, including arched gothic doorways and a tiled entrance flooring.

There is an opulent interior, and a landscaped garden outside that includes a bar and dining areas.

It is spread across three floors and is on Maze Hill, overlooking St Leonards Gardens, with views to the sea.

The property has been in the same family for more than 30 years and M&W Sales and Lettings is handling the sale

The property has been in the same family for more than 30 years and M&W Sales and Lettings is handling the sale

The property has an asking price of £2.5million and is only a short walk from the centre of the town of St Leonards-on-Sea

The property has an asking price of £2.5million and is only a short walk from the centre of the town of St Leonards-on-Sea

The property has five bedrooms, with this one including a fireplace and an arched window that includes some stained glass

The property has five bedrooms, with this one including a fireplace and an arched window that includes some stained glass

The property has some ornate features including on the walls of this double bedroom that have been decorated with candles

The property has some ornate features including on the walls of this double bedroom that have been decorated with candles

This bathroom has green and gold wallpaper, white tiles on the floor, a life size statue and an appealing roll top bath

This bathroom has green and gold wallpaper, white tiles on the floor, a life size statue and an appealing roll top bath

The property is only a short walk away is St Leonards town centre, which boasts bars, restaurants, independent galleries and shops on Norman and Kings Road.

The towns’ gardens provide a tranquil setting with a range of plants, trees and wildlife, with the star of the show being a central ornamental pond.

The area has several schools including Battle Abbey School, Claremont, Vinehall and Buckswood.

Outside, there is plenty of space to entertain family and friends, including an outdoor dining area and a large lawn

Outside, there is plenty of space to entertain family and friends, including an outdoor dining area and a large lawn

The outdoor entertaining area includes a firepit and outdoor lights so that gatherings can continue into the evening

The outdoor entertaining area includes a firepit and outdoor lights so that gatherings can continue into the evening

The kitchen has cream wall and base units along with a central island that is tiled and it contains some useful storage

The kitchen has cream wall and base units along with a central island that is tiled and it contains some useful storage

This large double bedroom has monochrome wallpaper, a dark wooden flooring and some furnishings providing a pink accent

This large double bedroom has monochrome wallpaper, a dark wooden flooring and some furnishings providing a pink accent

The average price of a price sold in St Leonards during the past year is £291,265, which is just under the £312,201 average for the country as a whole, according to Zoopla.

Helen Whiteley, of property website OnTheMarket, said: ‘Properties like this don’t come to the market too often, so when they do it’s an opportunity to own something really special.

‘As well as a magnificent history dating back almost 200 years, with its original charm and unique interior, this clock house has a level of grandeur that remains as impressive today as it would have been when first constructed.’

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Greige is the new hot colour for your home – here’s how to follow the trend

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Neither beige, nor grey — it’s ‘greige’. And you may have noticed the colour is gracing walls, floors and furnishings this year.

The combination of warmth and elegance offered by the tone can create a soothing yet dynamic space and is now a go-to neutral.

The key is to use it as an anchoring palette — a springboard for other, confident colours within your scheme.

Boldly neutral: A bathroom painted in greige tones from Little Greene. Greige can ground a space and counter potential garishness

Boldly neutral: A bathroom painted in greige tones from Little Greene. Greige can ground a space and counter potential garishness

‘Greige is often used as a safe colour, layered with other neutrals, but I like to use it to provide balance,’ says interior designer Rachel Niddrie. 

‘Try it as a backdrop or woven into a scheme to showcase bold textures, pattern and colour — on vibrant rugs, artwork and accessories.’

Combined with contrasting materials, greige can ground a space and counter potential garishness.

‘It works beautifully with dusky pinks as well as royal blues, teals, lime green and navy,’ says Rachel.

‘One of my favourite fabrics is No. 9 Thompson’s Ninfea Mania in Blush or Royal. Featuring painterly lilies on a loose weave, it can be used for curtains, sofas and chairs. The Blush has a greenish-grey in the pattern and a pearl oyster background that perfectly tones with greige.’

Add glamour

The shade is versatile, too, offering several decorative directions. ‘Monochrome accents add eye-catching detail, while metallic accessories will introduce understated glamour and bring warmth to the overall look,’ says Amanda Huber, founder of The Dining Chair Co.

‘If you are more daring, why not complement a neutral backdrop with beautiful printed linen upholstery on sofas or dining chairs? You can pick accent colours from the print and introduce them elsewhere to add energy to the scheme.’

Getting just the right shade of greige requires a considered eye.

‘As with any neutral or white, whether it is warm or cool, depends on underlying hints of warm pink or cool blue,’ says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown. ‘Red tones elsewhere in your scheme can be complemented with a warm grey-beige, while cooler blues, deep greys and greens work with a cooler grey.’

Also, the light in the UK can seem flat, which affects our perception of colour.

‘Natural light can be limited in homes, making us crave something warmer than a straightforward grey,’ says Helen Shaw of Benjamin Moore. ‘Our Revere-Pewter (HC-172) is a classic warm grey that co-ordinates with more natural greys like steel, concrete, glass, pebbles, driftwood — even cloudy skies.’

There are many ways to make this classic tone contemporary. ‘One of my top tips is to pair greige with raw plastered walls,’ says Space Shack’s Omar Bhatti. ‘This produces a lovely combination of soft colour and contrasting texture, which adds character.’

Mix it up

‘Don’t be afraid to mix materials,’ says Collection Noir’s Samantha Wilson. ‘Timber looks beautiful when accompanied with limewashed walls, occasional metal details, soft linens and textured ceramics.’

All these elements are a softly modern way to work a classic greige. Bear in mind some of the most beautifully balanced and welcoming interiors are based on a subtle palette of beiges and greys.

Texture: Sofa.com’s Ginger armchairs in Champagne luxe boucle costs £1,045

Texture: Sofa.com’s Ginger armchairs in Champagne luxe boucle costs £1,045

‘The key is to layer and to remember that ‘neutral’ extends far beyond creams and sandy hues,’ advises King Living’s design studio. ‘It also incorporates olive, earth tones, red-based hues and deeper browns — all of which pair with a beige-grey base to create a timeless scheme.’

Avoid a flat finish, instead opt for unexpected texture. Try sofa.com’s Ginger armchairs in Champagne luxe boucle (pictured), £1,045.

Pooky’s Empire gathered lampshades in Flashman printed cotton, £56, add elegance.

Bring greige walls to life with Carpetright’s Mardi Gras 576 Estrella Vinyl. The encaustic tile-style flooring works beautifully in otherwise neutral utility rooms. 

A graphic rug such as H&M Home’s Patterned Pile rug, £149.99 peps up a greige sitting room, too.

Calming vibe

The desire for warm, zen-like spaces is growing, making greige both a lifestyle and design choice.

Omar Bhatti has painted his apartment in Little Greene’s Mushroom. ‘I used it on wall, doors, architraves and skirting and combined it with deep blue kitchen cabinetry,’ he says. ‘It is very calming.’

Combined with natural fibres, timbers and earthy colours, it creates a sense of balance and understated luxury.

‘The look is easily achieved,’ says Samantha Wilson. ‘Whether you accessorise with woven planters or linen cushions, throws, tablecloths, or jute and flatweave rugs.’

Versatility is key to this — it works just as well with earthy tones as jewel hues, but it always contributes to a timeless, cocooning interior. Just what many of us crave.

Savings of the week! Leaning mirror

Light on the wallet: Dunelm offers the Moroccan mirror for £105

Light on the wallet: Dunelm offers the Moroccan mirror for £105

A long, leaning mirror has several key benefits. It makes any room look larger, optimises the light and requires no DIY skills: you simply prop it against the wall. Do so carefully and you will look slimmer and more lissom.

Snapping up a bargain will enhance your feeling of wellbeing. At Dunelm, there are styles for every decor, reduced by 30 per cent, including the gilt-framed Midi (£42), the Moroccan (£105) and the Apartment (£91), which has a loft-living vibe.

The Range also has a wide selection, such as the Regency whose price has been cut by 20 per cent to £87.99; its ornate gilt frame is very Bridgerton.

Cotswold Company offers an arched mirror in a moody black frame, down from £179 to £149.

Rose & Grey has a large black Art Deco mirror, reduced from £595 to £505.75, which would look good in a 1930s house, and a black paned mirror that’s now £191.25, down from £225, which could be deployed in the garden.

Anne Ashworth 

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Birmingham’s property market boosted by the Commonwealth Games

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The huge, bold mechanical bull that roared into the Birmingham arena at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games could be a suitable metaphor for the city’s property scene.

‘There are so many positive things that have ridden on the back of the Games taking place here,’ says Andrew Oulsnam, director of Robert Oulsnam and Company, and the owner of 11 estate agencies around the city.

‘We’re seeing lots of increased investment, with prices rising substantially over the past year and a half. The Games have given us a “feelgood factor” which I am sure will spread beyond the event itself.’

Onto a winner: Birmingham's Victoria Square before the Games. Properties in the City are 60% lower than those in London

Onto a winner: Birmingham’s Victoria Square before the Games. Properties in the City are 60% lower than those in London

Warming to his theme, he says: ‘Even now, in August, there is a change; more interest from buyers — when traditionally, the summer months are not the best time for the property market. I’m optimistic about the future.’

The shift in Birmingham’s fortunes started with the proposals for the HS2 project, which, when completed in 2033, will cut journey times to London to under an hour. This encouraged large companies such as HSBC, which has moved its UK headquarters to the city.

Since then, PwC and Goldman Sachs have followed.

International estate agents are selling properties abroad, while at the same time several infrastructure projects have transformed Birmingham into a safe, energetic and culturally diverse city — and a young one, with under-25s accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the population.

This has added to the vibrancy, and the reason why many emerging industries such as technology innovation and life sciences have started up. It is also a shoppers’ city, with 1,000 retail outlets within a 20-minute walk of the centre.

And then there are the prices. Properties in Birmingham cost 60 per cent less than those in London.

 Universally now, living in Birmingham is seen in a positive light

Estate agent Philip Jackson 

‘The pandemic meant many people working from home appreciated the importance of having some outside space,’ says Lynda Williams, branch manager at Kings Heath estate agency.

‘I have clients who moved from London, selling their small flats for typically £500,000 and getting a lovely Victorian house and garden with original features, for the same money here.’

Philip Jackson, director of Maguire Jackson, deals with city centre properties and has seen the positive impact of the Games.

‘There is no doubt that the extra attention focused on Birmingham is helping the property market.

‘The Commonwealth Games, bringing 72 teams from all over the world, is a nice step on the HS2 journey,’ he says.

‘Rental prices over the past 12 months have increased by five to ten per cent, and universally now, living in Birmingham is seen in a positive light.’

He says the famous Jewellery Quarter is like Clerkenwell in central London 20 years ago, with controlled conservation of historical buildings, giving residential property an interesting vibe.

Intriguingly, too, this is where all the medals for the Commonwealth Games were made. Philip says the typical renter is a contract worker aged 25 to 35.

At the same time, the sales market is also steadily growing inside the Jewellery Quarter, where modern warehouse conversions of one-bedroom flats are going for £185-£200,000 and two bedrooms from £220,000 to £500,000.

Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, is naturally proud of the enthusiasm and the success the Games have brought. 

One of the legacies is 1,000 new homes being built in the north of the city at Perry Barr, next to the main stadium.

‘It has cost us £184 million to put on the Games and the Government matched it three times. Now, we have levered a billion pounds of investment into the city on the back of that,’ says Mr Ward. ‘We couldn’t afford not to have them.’

On the market… in our second city 

Wharfside Street: This two bedroom penthouse is in the city centre. There is access to a residents’ gym and the building has private parking. n Fineandcountry.com, 0121 272 600 £400,000

Wharfside Street: This two bedroom penthouse is in the city centre. There is access to a residents’ gym and the building has private parking. n Fineandcountry.com, 0121 272 600 £400,000

H0dge Hill: There are three bedrooms in this semi-detached home, on the outskirts of Birmingham, which also has a conservatory and a garage. n Shipways.co.uk, 01217 210 563. £230, 000

H0dge Hill: There are three bedrooms in this semi-detached home, on the outskirts of Birmingham, which also has a conservatory and a garage. n Shipways.co.uk, 01217 210 563. £230, 000

 

Wychall Road: Following a complete renovation, this three bedroom detached house has a newly fitted kitchen/diner, bathroom and off-road parking. n Ardenestates.co.uk, 01217 217 734. £299,950

Wychall Road: Following a complete renovation, this three bedroom detached house has a newly fitted kitchen/diner, bathroom and off-road parking. n Ardenestates.co.uk, 01217 217 734. £299,950

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