Simon Coveney has launched his new Housing Action Plan with quite a fanfare. Unsurprisingly much of the media has echoed Coveney’s own view of his proposals: a ‘game changer’, ‘47,000 new social houses!’, ‘the biggest housing programme in the history of the state’.
Tragically – and it is tragic for the homeless on the streets and the 140,000 on the housing waiting list – this is spin and hype, a huge con.
Start with the headline figure, the 47,000 social houses; bearing in mind the 140,000 (and growing) on the waiting list this is not enough. And when you look deeper into the Plan you find that even this figure is unlikely to be delivered: it actually talks in terms of building ‘up to 25.000’ by 2021. ‘Up to’ here is politician speak for less than
Then there is the fact highlighted by People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett in the Dáil that there is NO figure in the Plan for the number of actual Council Houses to be built. Boyd Barrett put this question direct to Enda Kenny but got, as usual, no answer.
Another feature of the Plan is that it does not address the crucial question of rent control, despite the fact that more and more people are being priced out of their homes by rapacious landlords.
This reflects the underlying problem with Coveney’s Plan and with the government’s whole approach: that they insist on relying on market mechanisms and the private developers to deal with the housing crisis.
The whole report is littered with references to ‘incentives’ and ‘the private sector’, by which they really mean vulture funds. The government is going to hand over 75% of state land and funds to private developers who will build houses, only 25% of which will be social housing.
This is despite the fact that it is has been proven over decades that relying on the profit motive to provide housing doesn’t work – it just makes the problem worse.
Simon Coveney has said he is staking his political career on his plan working. He may live to regret that pledge.
What we need now is what People Before Profit and AAA have been arguing for all along: declare a National Housing Emergency; treat housing as a basic human right; take over vacant housing; introduce emergency rent controls; start a massive programme of council house building.
And defy any instructions from the EU that it can’t be done: the housing needs and right of our people come before EU rules!