Everyday the politicians, RTE and the newspapers tell us the Irish economy is in ‘recovery’. ‘We’ are all supposed to be getting better off. Every week some Government Minister leaks new information about some give away they have planned to bribe the electorate, who they’ve, been robbing for five years, in the pre-election budget.
And everyday, every week, the housing and homelessness crisis gets worse and worse.
You see it on the streets of Dublin. You can read it in the language of statistics. The Simon Community says that there are now 3,372 adults, 707 families and 1,496 children in emergency accommodation. This is a 76% increase since January alone.
You can read it in the tragic headlines. Nearly a year after the terrible death of Jonathan Corrie in a doorway within metres of the Dáil another young homeless man dies in almost the same spot.
Yet nothing has been done.
For years now Fr Peter McVerry, Focus Ireland, Sister Stan and every other homeless charity and campaign has been warning of the impending disaster. So has Richard Boyd Barrett, Ruth Coppinger, Brid Smith, Tina MacVeigh and every decent and progressive TD and councillor .
It has fallen on deaf ears. Shame on the Irish Government!
Let’s be clear. A half way decent society – one that cared for people more than developers’ profits – would never have let this problem arise. And a decent society could solve the immediate crisis now, in weeks or months …if there was the will.
And a decent society would start now on tackling the underlying problem, the lack of social housing. Instead we have had the Gardai taking urgent action – to close down a Soup Kitchen on Grafton St !
What needs to be done is not rocket science, it’s obvious.
The Government should declare a National Emergency so that special measures can be taken
The houses that stand empty across the country and especially across Dublin should be taken over and occupied. In 2012 the Deutsche Bank reported that there were 289,451 empty houses in Ireland, and the figure for Dublin alone currently stands at over 20,000.
There are large numbers of empty warehouses. They could easily be refurbished and used.
Rent supplements should be raised and rent controls should be imposed. We must stop pricing people and especially families with children out of accommodation. At present rents are going through the roof and making it impossible for tens of thousands of people to get a home.
These emergency measures should be backed by a massive programme to build and provide proper affordable social housing for people.
And it should be paid for with the €4 billion reserves being held by NAMA.
So why are these things not done? There are many answers.
NAMA and the developers (as reported in last months Socialist Worker) prefer to concentrate on the luxury homes end of the market, where there’s more money to be made.
Councils are mired in red tape and bureaucracy, moving at a snail’s pace to deal with so-called ‘voids’ (empty properties) when emergency action is needed. The Deutsche Bank report estimated that at the present rate it would take 43 years to fill these ‘voids’!
Politicians keep looking for ‘market solutions’, like Fine Gael Housing Minister, Paudie Coffey’s proposals to give tax breaks to landlords as an incentive when what is needed is strong government action.
But all these answers boiled down to one thing – we have a political system and an economic system and a government geared to putting profit before people.
Housing is a right
If housing is treated not as a human right but as just another commodity on the market, the housing crisis will never be solved. In the so-called ‘free’ market production, including housing provision, is for profit and so is provide for those who have the money to pay for it, especially those who have lots of money.
By definition the homeless will not have money and in a competitive market situation people in poverty and on lower incomes, who have had their wages and welfare benefits cut through austerity, will always lose out in the race for housing.
That is why we need to keep up the pressure on the Government. That is why there will a Right2Housing demonstration at the Dail on December 1, the anniversary of Jonathan Corrie’s death.
And that is why at the next election we need to clear out the establishment parties, who are all committed to maintaining this unjust system.