According to the Dept of the Environment & Local Govt. The aim of Irish housing policy is “to enable every household to have available an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment, and, as far as possible, at the tenure of its choice”. Despite these noble aspirations There are still many families homeless, or living in substandard accommodation, Much of this is due to the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger” Economy, the eviction of tenants by unscrupulous landlords and “vulture funds”,
The current Housing crisis is a result of greed, A house is for some a utility (a place to live) for others a house is an investment opportunity. In 1973 (when we joined the E.E.C.) A three bedroom house in Dublin cost the equivalent of 3 years average annual salary. Today the same house will cost the equivalent of 10 years average annual salary.
A major rethink on the manner in which the state provides for the housing needs of those who cannot afford to purchase a home, needs to be undertaken. The construction of local authority housing projects, such as happened in the past must cease. These projects only serve to separate and create disadvantage for those who live there.
To begin with, we must provide a constitutional right to shelter.
The Provision of Social Housing;
- The provision of “ Houses ” however, is not the responsibility of the state.
- The provision of Integrated social accomodation in mixed developments of owner occupied and “for rent” apartments is both logical and necessary, to provide for the citizens a secure place of residence, and to meet the basic human right to a place of shelter befitting a dignified human existence.
- In the meantime those seeking social accommodation should be offered homes where there are homes waiting for families. Persistent refusal of accommodation should result in the applicant being removed from the waiting list. (unless they have a compelling reason)
- A comprehensive program including, accomodation, financial support, and community employment (if required). To encourage those on the waiting lists to relocate to areas where the infrastructure of schools, shops, recreation, and public transport already exists, would help to resolve the current housing crisis.
Resolving the crisis in affordable (purchase) housing;
There is no shortage of building land for the building of homes for the people. However land ownership is often fragmented, and available at the whim of the owner. Compulsory purchase of these sites (at current use values), amalgamation of sites, demolition of slums, and construction of socially mixed communities is essential.
Many developers acquire land banks and then wait for a surge in demand before building homes on these sites. This type of land hoarding is detrimental to the good of Irish society. A property tax of 20\% of the lands market value, applied per annum, (after a two year exemption) would ensure there is no delay in converting acquired sites into communities.
Many existing residential area’s are no better than slums, and are a breeding ground for social problems, including domestic breakdown, crime, and unemployment. Its time to relocate the victims of these estates, and send in the bulldozers. A major regeneration of all slum areas, should begin immediately, those who resist regeneration must be swept aside. Standards must be improved and implemented with vigour and fairness, A small scale example of this type of regeneration occurred in Ballymun, Dublin. Lessons learned in this development could be applied to future projects.
To resolve the crisis of affordable housing requires a building program similar to those of the past. The combination of Public and Private partnership, and large tracts of land available within and on the outskirts of the cities, would make the process affordable now.
The Economic Negatives;
- Increasing the housing stock may result in diminishing rental incomes adversely affecting landlords and property owners, leading to a reduction in property investment
- The proposal may result in a rise in the number of current homes in negative equity, as the value of all existing properties would be reduced.
- The rise in negative equity would impair the banks balance sheets.
- Pension funds invested in property would be adversely affected.
The Economic and Social benefits;
- Improving the attractiveness of Ireland as a location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would be enhanced as staff find accommodation affordable.
- The easing of the upward pressure on wages, as workers constantly try to keep up with rising house prices, and rental costs.
- The burden on the State of domestic rent subsidies and income support for those on low incomes would be reduced.