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?
You'd think Enda Kenny had never seen a homeless person before. In the wake of the sad death of Jonathan Corrie, who was sleeping rough in the shadow of Dáil Éireann, Ireland's parliament, the Taoiseach went walk about in the city centre to meet Dublin's homeless. In an interview with the media, he said he was "taken aback" by what he saw.
Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, whisked around the capital by the ghost of Christmas present, he got a first hand view of the conditions that people without homes or hostel places have to endure. He saw the effects of addiction, the sleeping bags and the syringes, that dominate the lives of those who have been left at the margins. But, it's hard to believe that he didn't know this was happening; It's difficult to imagine, that after three and a half years in power, he has suddenly had a Scrooge like epiphany, and is going to pull out all the stops to transform the lives of the country's homeless people.
Decades of lack of investment in social housing and the growing housing crisis in Dublin means that Dublin city council now appear to be considering building temporary slum housing. That's not of course what they are calling it but Assistant chief executive and head of housing Dick Brady has revealed a plan to house families in prefabs on derelict sites.
The madness that is Dublin housing bubble being rapidly re-inflated need to be opposed, not celebrated. Unlike estate agents & the media we recognise rising home prices are not good thing. Unaffordable homes are going to make things much harder for those in lower paid employment in particular. And with almost no protection from landlords for tenants and rising rental prices this means many being stuck in insecure poor quality accommodation for years to come.
House prices in Dublin have increased by almost €200 per day every single day for the past year (and by €220 a day in the past month). Figures released by estate agents DNG reveal that the average cost of a home in Dublin is €349,000 – an increase of €71,000 since this time last year.
Even more frighteningly, prices at the lower end of the market (less than €250,000) are increasing at a faster rate than more expensive houses. This clearly affects people in lower paid employment and those struggling to buy a home disproportionately.
Over the years, Dublin’s working class has organised to fight landlords, developers and politicians in search of decent housing and well-being for all. This panel at the 9th Dublin anarchist bookfair considered how some of these earlier campaigns and direct actions can inform today’s struggles.
Today (Weds) was very quiet; there was no eviction attempt. We were prepared for the worst, but no cops called around, nobody claiming to be the owner, nothing.Just to recap, we are preparing ourselves to resist eviction because previously, on Friday, two people claiming to be agents acting on behalf of a company, which they claimed own two of the houses, came to illegally board them up. When we weren't letting them do so, they called the cops. The cops decided not to do anything because they did not have the paperwork or legal authorisation to evict us. However, the “owners” and the cops did say that they'd be back on Wednesday (today) with “papers”.