A presentation from the 2014 Dublin anarchist bookfair on the role of radical co-operatives in social change, based on the experience of Radical Routes in the UK.
The contemporary crisis of capitalism has made markedly visible the relationship between finance capital and property speculation, between the concentrated money-power of bankers and speculators and the shaping of the built environment in our towns and cities.
The years from 1995 to 2007 saw record levels of housing construction in Ireland. Construction output went up, land and house prices mushroomed and it seemed as if there was a never-ending bandwagon on which everyone was going to get rich by simply waiting for their pile of bricks to increase in value.
First published in The Irish Anarchist Review 2
A whole new lexicon of terms and vocabulary entered the everyday parlance – terms such as ‘starter home’, ‘property ladder’, ‘first time buyer’; Newspeak phrases such as ‘affordable housing’ were bandied about. Houses and housing estates were advertised for sale by estate agents and property developers with colourful banner headlines and slogans such as ‘live the dream’, ‘live the lifestyle’ – it was almost explicitly stated that even the dreary Irish weather could be by-passed by buying an apartment or house in the latest development. It seemed as if the dream would go on forever. But in mid 2007, disaster struck. With the onset of the world- wide recession, Ireland’s very own property bubble burst with a huge bang and left only destruction behind it. The dream turned to a nightmare for many people and the vocabulary was now dominated by terms such as ‘negative equity’, ‘ghost estates’ and ‘price collapse’.
Housing is one of people's most basic needs. Yet it is a need that the 26 county state  has consistently failed to supply to a significant number of its people. It seems that the Irish housing crisis is permanent, becoming more severe from time to time, but never disappearing. Despite the Celtic Tiger economy and the building boom, waiting lists for social housing continue to lengthen. Over 37,000 people are currently waiting. Are we to believe that this lack of housing is inevitable, that it is impossible to build houses quickly enough to satisfy the demand?
Government policy is creating a fresh property boom that is once more driving the most marginalised onto the streets and into insecure accommodation. The deliberate creation of housing scarcity has seen huge numbers being evicted by greedy landlords, normally making use of the rights stripping clause that allows them to claim they are intending to move a family member into the property. Right now in Dublin who doesn’t have friends being evicted under that clause?
The cause is rapidly increasing rents and a wish by some landlords to cash in on rising property prices by selling. Tenants have suddenly found themselves dumped into a market where housing if very scarce, further fuelling the bubble of rent rises. Many landlords are refusing to accept tenants dependent on rent allowance and this along with the rising prices have left many unable to find suitable affordable new accommodation.
In a disgraceful if not unexpected scene the High Court has again taken the side of property speculators and ordered the arrest of the remaining squatters at Grangegorman - 19th May. The judge also imposed a 14-day prison sentence on one of the occupiers who said he had not yet vacated the premises because he wanted time to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court
Homelessness in Ireland could be solved at a stroke by allowing people without homes to move into the 302,602 empty houses in the country.
That figure comes from the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis. It's the equivalent of half the homes in Dublin, many of the vacants being in ghost estates that developers have been deliberately allowing to fall apart.
What are the challenges and possibilities of popular self-organisation to reclaim our lives, our homes and our cities.
At this years Dublin anarchist bookfair Jenny and Zoe looked at recent occupations in Dublin, including the Grangegorman Squat in Smithfield where resistance to eviction is ongoing
“Ours is a society in which, in every field, one group of people makes decisions, exercise control, limits choices, while the great majority have to accept these decisions, submit to this control and act within the limits of these externally imposed choices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of housing: one of those basic human needs which throughout history and all over the world people have satisfied as well as they could for themselves, using the materials what were at hand and their own, and their neighbors labor. The marvelously resourceful anonymous vernacular architecture of every part of the globe is a testimony to their skill, using timber, straw, grass, leaves, hides, stone, clay, bone, earth, mud sand even snow. Consider the igloo: maximum enclosure of space with minimum of labor. Cost of materials and transportation, nil. And all made of water. Nowadays, of course, the Eskimos live on welfare handouts in little northern slums. Man, as Habraken says “no longer houses himself: he is housed” – Colin Ward
The residents of Grangegorman are once more in the High Court this morning (26 March) as what is in effect NAMA attempt to get them thrown out of their homes. NAMA own the loans on the site, their receivers are trying to get procession not in order to build homes or a community centre but in order to be able to sell it. Parts of this particular site have been lying derelict for about 15 years as part of the speculative cycle of the property millionaires. If the residents are evicted who knows how many more years that may continue.