According to the Government 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 in Ireland homeless, or living in poor accommodation. Ireland is not unique in having these problems. Throughout the world people live in slums and sub-standard accommodation. While we cannot solve the worldwide problem of homelessness, we can achieve those noble aspirations in Ireland.
Solving Short Term Supply Problems
The Government could solve the short term housing crisis by declaring a ”Housing Emergency” allowing them to compulsorily purchase apartments and houses which are currently empty, and renting these at affordable rents to the homeless and those on the waiting list. The provision of social accommodation in mixed developments of owner occupied and “for rent” communities to provide for the citizens a place of residence, and to meet the basic human right to a place of shelter befitting a dignified human existence.
- First the establishment of a single National Housing Authority, removing from local authorities the role of “landlord”, ending waiting lists and the interference by local Councillors in the allocation of local authority housing units.
- Unoccupied homes should then be made available through local estate agents for rental at controlled rates in the same way as for other private rental properties. This would allow prospective tenants to seek out accommodation in the area of their choice.
- The capping of rents Nationally (Public or Private) at a rate of no more than 4% of the value declared for the Local Property Tax. A typical 3 bedroom property valued at 400,000 euro, would produce an annual rental of 16,000 euro (or 1,333 euro per month)
- Those needing rent support would then be assisted by the Dept of Social Welfare in the normal way in accordance with their income and needs.
Many existing residential estates, both private and local authority, are no better than slums. These estates are a breeding ground for social problems, including family breakdown, crime, and unemployment. Its time to relocate the victims of these estates, and send in the bulldozers. Regenerating these estates, providing mixed affordable housing, building the schools and infrastructure needed to turn these into viable communities.
There are empty houses in many parts of the country where there are schools and hospitals threatened with closure because of lack of demand for their services. Encouraging those on the waiting lists to relocate to these areas could help to solve the demographic imbalance, and the housing crisis. A comprehensive program including, housing, financial support, and community employment (if required).
The Economic and Social benefits;
- Improving the attractiveness of Ireland as a location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would be enhanced as staff would find accommodation more affordable.
- The easing of the upward pressure on wages, as workers are forced to 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.