From Socialist Voice, August 2006

Housing: The waiting-list time bomb

The Government hoped that the housing crisis could be solved by getting builders to set aside 20 per cent of development land for social and affordable housing. But a recent report commissioned by the homeless organisation Focus Ireland shows this not to be the case.
    The report “Building for Inclusion” has exposed the fact that in the past two years only a third of the social and affordable houses planned under the legislation were built. In 2004 the amount of social and affordable housing reached only 30 per cent of the planned number, and in 2005 this rose only slightly to 35 per cent.
    Under part V of the Planning and Development Act (2000) local authorities have the power to ensure that 20 per cent of land in housing developments is reserved for social and affordable housing. The Government (Fianna Fáil the Builders’ Party) amended the law in 2002 so that builders and developers could give cash payments to local authorities instead of having to meet their obligation to transfer land or housing.
    The report states that it believes that this change is one of the main reasons for the failure to meet the 20 per cent target. Another factor suggested is the change in the planning permission rules that allowed builders additional time to design developments that were not subject to the 20 per cent condition; and the report estimates that at least 14,000 housing units (i.e. houses and flats) were lost because of this change.
    The total amount of social and affordable housing planned from 2004 to 2008 will be about 54,000 units. This will not meet the present or future needs of those on the housing list at present, never mind those who will join that growing list up to 2008. With increases in interest rates and the levels of personal indebtedness, the number of people looking for social or affordable housing can only go one way, and that is up.
    This Government and many of the city and county managers are ideologically opposed to the provision of social housing. There are vast fortunes to be made in building private houses and apartments. A third of the rich people in Ireland are property developers.
    An additional scandal is the granting of valuable state property to private builders to build luxury housing developments in exchange for land, possibly on the outskirt of cities, that has no services, such as sewerage, electricity, water, roads, schools, or shops. And we now have a land-grab of public land around public hospitals on which to build private medical facilities to cater for those who can afford private medicine or private medical insurance. This is more of the growing inequality that this Government is making a permanent feature of Irish society—already one of the most unequal societies in the world (the most unequal after the United States).
    What is required is the ending of the transfer of all state lands and property to private individuals.
    To meet present as well as future housing needs we must have
• an emergency public house-building programme
• an end to the sale of the public housing stock
• tighter control where public housing has been transferred to housing associations, and especially a ban on these associations selling housing stock to property speculators or monopoly landlords
• more rights and greater security of tenure for those in rented accommodation.

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