Census shows no housing shortage

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The 2011 census results show that Ireland is not suffering a housing shortage. But taken with local authority waiting list figures and homeless statistics , it shows clearly that we have a housing distribution crisis. The latest statistics from the Central Statistics Office regarding the latest census shows 294,202 vacant housing units in the state; that's almost 15% of all houses in existence.  To better illustrate the meaning of this let us take the example of Cork City because that conveniently excludes the issue of holiday homes in rural locations. Cork City has 6,386 vacant houses according to the CSO or 11.4% of homes in the city.

Now many houses are empty for what we could term legitimate reasons, for example the city council has to rennovate and often upgrade any house that becomes vacant  before letting it out, it also maintains a small number vacant for emergencies such as fires etc. But by and large no more than 400 council houses are vacant at any given time. Then there are homes that are vacant because of recent bereavement etc. and families sometimes take a while to get things organised, houses for sale that don't make sense to let out etc. However by NAMA's own estimates it currently has 90,000 housing units on its books. Now even allowing that some of these are located in fields on the edge of a bog in Roscommon it must have a significant number in urban areas, indeed Cork city has 21 ghost estates and several apartment blocks with substantial vacancy including the city's tallest building the Elysian which can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city centre including the homeless hostel just a few streets away.

8,230 families and individuals are currently awaiting social housing from Cork City Council.  Those awaiting social housing are generally in private rented accomodation and if on low incomes entitled to rent allowance.  Rent allowance of course is a transfer of money from the state to private landlords. One arm of the state is in possession of substantial numbers of vacant houses, another arm of the state responsible for social housing has a waiting list of thousands and is paying out millions of euro to private landlords to accomodate them. Now I think the logical thing to do would be to make the housing available to those on the list and start drawing in some rent and saving all that rent allowance money surely? But of course that would have two effects; private landlords would lose out, and property prices would be depressed. For those two reasons nothing will be done as this government like any government only acts in the interests of the capitalist class. Unless of coursed they are forced to.

WORDS: James McBarron

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