- The private sector cannot and will not solve our housing problems.
- We need to invest in a State building programme for secure, sustainable and affordable housing by redirecting the €4.5billion that NAMA plans to spend on high-end office and apartment developments, and accessing the billions of reserves offered by the Credit Union movement for social housing.
- Compulsory purchase of vacant buildings and buy-to-lets in arrears to convert to affordable rental or purchase properties.
- Rent control and real regulation, along with increased protection of those with mortgage arrears to keep people in their homes.
Fine Gael and Labour have consistently failed to act on housing despite a huge and snowballing housing crisis. Approximately 5,000 people are currently homeless, including 1,495 children. There are more than 100,000 people are on waiting lists for social housing – with almost 10,000 in Fingal. Someone on the new minimum wage would spend 70% of their income to rent a one-bed apartment in Dublin, at current prices.
Fine Gael and Labour have done next to nothing to address the housing crisis; if anything, they have made it worse. They have consistently misrepresented figures, with the latest being Enda Kenny’s patently false claim that the Government is going to ‘build’ 110,000 social housing units. His own Government’s Housing 2020 Strategy provides for capital funding for the building or acquisition of around 10,000 units up to 2020 – a very far cry from 110,000.
One of the main causes of our current housing crisis has been an over-reliance on the private market to supply social housing – with people becoming homeless as rents spiral and rent supplement rates don’t keep up. Despite this, Fine Gael and Labour’s published housing strategy involves reliance on the private sector to provide the vast majority of social housing, with only a tiny minority of social houses to be built or acquired by the State.
We need to look at a more sustainable, long-term housing policy, one that’s driven by what the people need, not by what developers want. The Minister for the Environment cut the minimum size standards for apartments last December – meaning the majority of apartments that will be built in the next few years will be just too small for families to live in. Where we should be raising standards, Fine Gael and Labour have been intent on lowering them.
The State ultimately has to take responsibility for housing and to play a far larger role in providing it. Leaving this most essential of human needs to the private market has been shown time and again to fail, and the consequences of that failure for people’s lives and happiness are disastrous. We need to invest in a serious social housing programme, one which will restore the housing stock to a level that serves the needs of society. NAMA has a key role to play in this, and should be called upon to play it. Offers such as the one from the Credit Union movement to provide billions for a social housing programme should be taken. Large-scale investment in house building will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy, providing much-needed jobs, and ensuring people don’t have to spend upwards of 50% of their income to pay for a roof over their heads.
The State must also ensure that building standards are adhered to, and that housing policy is attuned to what people really need. Shoebox flats, pyrite riddled foundations, and firetrap apartment blocks must be consigned to history.
Housing is a human right, and the failed developer-led model perfected by Fianna Fáil, which Fine Gael and Labour have been intent on mimicking, will never be up to the task of vindicating that right. It’s time for a real change.
Image: Natesh Ramasamy