July 2014        

Housing is a right, not a privilege

There is not a town or city in this country that is not experiencing increased homelessness. Walk down any street and you will see at first hand the growing problem of individuals and whole families sleeping rough or wandering around the streets, as they have to leave a hostel or B&B during the day.
      Homeless families are being placed in sub-standard accommodation while rent allowances continue to be cut. Meanwhile rents, particularly in the Dublin region, continue to spiral—up 11 per cent in 2013 alone—beyond the reach of thousands of people seeking a roof over their heads.
      Housing is a basic right for everyone. It cannot and should not be left in the hands of private developers or rackrenting landlords, who are all too willing to get rich on the backs of working people looking for a place to live. Twenty landlords alone receive €5 million a year in rent allowance payments from the state.
      A recent report claims that one in five Irish families now live in private rented accommodation, with many of these reporting sub-standard accommodation as a major problem. At any given time there were 75,000 to 77,000 people receiving rent supplement, about 30,000 of these in the greater Dublin area.
      There are about 100,000 people on the housing list at present, meaning that 5,000 houses or flats would have to be built every year for the next twenty years. In fact Dublin City Council built a grand total of 29 houses in 2013.
      If we look at the figures for home ownership in 1961 we see that only 25 per cent of the population in urban areas lived in private housing; by 1986 this figure had trebled to 75 per cent. This has been a deliberate policy by the state to force people into private home ownership, thereby shackling them with massive lifelong debt, but is also a source of massive and steady profits, enriching the banks and finance houses.
      The talk about building more “social housing” misses the essential point that under the existing economic system, basic human needs—for shelter, food, water, and medical services—are being and will continue to be commodified and privatised.
      Housing is a right, and it is the responsibility of the state to provide decent housing for everyone. It is not acceptable that homes are reduced to a commodity that only those who can afford it can avail of.
      The state will take notice of the housing crisis only when we stop reducing the crisis to a demand for social housing and instead claim housing as a right, not as some economic privilege.

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