On Saturday, December 1, is the National Housing Demonstration, which convenes at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance. It will demand action by the government to address the housing emergency which has been engulfing Ireland for several years. You might wonder why this matters to me. I live in a city centre apartment that I rent for an affordable price. The thing is though that I am extremely lucky. And luck isn’t infinite. An exact replica of my flat, on the next floor up, went on the rental market earlier this year for a price that is 70% higher than what I am paying. I live in a ‘rent pressure zone’ meaning that in theory my landlord is not supposed to increase my rent by more than 4% per year. Unless he wants to ‘renovate’. ‘Renovation’ is a loophole that allows landlords to evict tenants, paint a wall and then put the flat back on the market at whatever price it can raise. The former tenant has no redress.
If my rent increases by 70% I will be leaving Dublin. There is no way I could afford this. There is a chronic shortage of available homes so it’s not like I can find anything else. I could go into a house-share. But at my age?
Perhaps I am being selfish. I don’t care. The expectation that you are safely and securely housed – regardless of your circumstance – is not unreasonable. Ireland allegedly has a ‘booming economy’. A country that deliberately fails to provide enough affordable housing to house its population is not a civilised country. The neo-liberal Fine Gael / Fianna Fail coalition government seems ideologically opposed to building state owned houses on the vast tracts of state owned land, and renting them out at affordable prices, like they did until the 1980s. It is leaving the housing catastrophe entirely in the hands of the private market – which includes those cancerous vulture funds.
This is simply not good enough. Fine Gael has introduced dozens of ‘initiatives’ over the past five years to appear to be doing something. Month on month the homeless figures continue to increase – despite constant efforts by the chocolate teapot Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (no relation) to massage the figures.
The blatantly obvious solution – state owned houses built on state owned land to be rented (with a future option to buy) at a rate dependent on your income has not been considered. The government can’t be pissing off its developer and banker buddies, even while the country is turning to shit in a fetid sea of poverty and insecurity – which is in direct contradiction to the government propaganda about how swell everything is.
The far right commentariat – which unsurprisingly votes for the government – constantly bleat their opposition to providing ‘free housing’. That’s just typical Fine Gael though – never missing an opportunity to punch down, and display its hatred of people not born to privilege. Leo Varadkar makes a point of demonising the poor whenever he can.
The government is not listening or taking action to address the crisis, so I guess we have to go to the street.
Aux armes citoyens (metaphorically I mean).