November 2011        

Crisis in social housing worsens


In recent times the housing crisis has come to mean the bursting of the speculative bubble so beloved of banks, developers, conveyancing solicitors, auctioneers and valuers, and other agents of greed. Brushed under the carpet have been those in need of social housing—those for whom private ownership remains a distant dream, short of a win in the lotto.
     Nationally it is believed that there are more than 130,000 families on local authority housing lists. It has been estimated that this figure represents a minimum of 176,147 individuals. The failure of successive Governments to provide enough social housing, even during the “Celtic Tiger” years, means that the number on the lists has just doubled over the last three years.
     And, according to recent developments, the outlook for those on housing lists is even bleaker. The list has got longer, and with 80,000 households in acute mortgage distress more and more people are trying to obtain social housing. Around the country the story is the same.
     In Co. Kerry there are 4,258 “qualified households” on the housing list. This includes the main towns in the county: Killarney, Tralee, and Listowel. According to one source, nearly 1,000 people are waiting to be housed in Killarney alone. As they wait they are left to admire the thousands of empty houses, mainly in ghost estates.
     In Co. Meath it is estimated that 3,000 applicants are waiting for local authority housing. In Co. Clare there are 2,950 people on the social housing list, with 860 on the rent supplement scheme.
     Up to 500 people are still waiting on local authority housing in Ballinasloe alone. In Co. Wicklow last year’s figures put the number at 875 people on Arklow Town Council’s waiting list, and rising. And in the city of Cork the number on the waiting list has soared over the 9,000 mark. In June this year there was confirmation of a 90 per cent cut in the Government’s housing construction grant to the city council—from €55 million in 2009 to only €5 million this year.
     While those on the list wait they remain at the mercy of private landlords. And it looks like they will have a long wait. One newspaper has reported that the Department of the Environment and Local Government had decided that there will be no return to large-scale capital construction by local authorities.
     And officials privately admit that even if they attempted to do so it’s just not on, as “the IMF would not be too impressed with such a move.” Instead, accommodation is to be provided through leasing and rental schemes, involving contracts between the local authorities and private landlords or the voluntary housing sector.
     In other words, social housing is to be privatised. It will be okay to rent from the NAMA boys . . .
     The only measure to reduce waiting lists came when the coalition Government decided to reduce the figures on the list by introducing new Social Housing Assessment Regulations earlier this year. The minister of state with responsibility for housing and planning, Willie Penrose (Labour Party), signed into law measures that will restrict access to social housing by using harsher eligibility requirements.
     In September this year it was revealed that in Dún Laoghaire 400 of the 4,000 people on the list have been removed as a result of these measures. Similar results are expected throughout the country.
     This is part of a systematic attack on the social legislation built up after the Second World War and the dismantling of social measures brought into force under socialist and progressive forces in the 1960s.
     These attacks are part of a softening-up process to provide new areas for investment and exploitation by a capitalism that has seen its traditional areas of plunder disappear.
     With the worldwide capitalist crisis, these attacks have accelerated. And the IMF, ably assisted by its local agents, has stepped in to administer its shock therapy.
     Health, housing and even social provision face privatisation. Those with a few pennies more than the new limits are knocked off the lists, so that their few pence can be expropriated.
     Labour Party ministers—Penrose, Burton, and Gilmore—can claim that the lists are shrinking, and that social democracy is working. Isn’t it great!
[MA]

Home page  >  Publications  >  Socialist Voice  >  November 2011  >  Crisis in social housing worsens
Baile  >  Foilseacháin  >  Socialist Voice  >  Samhain 2011  >  Crisis in social housing worsens