Beating the Bust: Free Public Lecture and Discussion – Dave Wetzel

A Green Week Event in DIT Bolton St

Time and Date: 5.30 pm, 10th April 2008

Venue: Bolton Street DIT

Property prices have fallen by 6% and tax receipts are down €600 million in the first quarter. Panic is beginning to take hold. Expectations of soft landings are fading as developers slash selling prices and buyers hold off till things settle. Architects-the canaries of the building industry-are being handed their P45s as developers close up shop, bank their land and migrate to London to build the Olympics. The banks meanwhile are frightened to lend to each other as their security and assets are revalued in an atmosphere of suspicion and uncertainty. All these factors are leading to a credit squeeze and recession. Whether this recession will be short, a simple overdue correction of an overheated property market, or whether it deepens into a serious economic depression, depends on how the government reacts.

Speaking at a packed public lecture in Trinity College last month, Fred Harrison, author of Boom Bust, told how this sad eventuality was inevitable under Ireland’s economic development model. A concerned audience asked, what can we or the government do? This lecture, hosted by Feasta working with Green Week DIT, answered those questions.

The same basic economic theory that predicted the bust-often overlooked by both socialists and neo-liberal economists as it does not easily fit their agendas-offers clues on how to mitigate and then prevent boom busts happening again. It puts natural resources, especially land, at the centre of political economics, exactly where it should be in these environmentally challenging times.

The main speaker is a leading expert in the political economics of land, Dave Wetzel, who is currently Vice-Chair, Transport for London 2000 and President of the Labour Land Campaign. Wetzel is best known as the man behind the successful London Congestion Charges. What is less well known is that congestion charges are only one of a suite of innovative fiscal mechanisms he advocates, that could significantly improve our lives. Dave gave an engaging and easy-to-understand outline of how the land market in its current form works to make housing unaffordable, increase inequality and damage the environment, and how, with reform, it could do quite the opposite.

Two further speakers briefly augmented Dave’s proposals to show in detail how they could work in the Irish context. They are Tom Dunne, Head of School of Real Estate and Construction in DIT Bolton Street and Chair of the Private Residential Tenancy Board; and Emer O’Siochru, of Feasta and EOS Future Design.

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