Keeping House Prices Sky High in Ireland


The self congratulatory waffle of business men, the press and politicians continues even though we are hearing a lot less about the “Celtic Tiger”. After almost fifteen years of economic boom we are able to look around and think about what we are left with. Access to decent and affordable housing, one of the most fundamental issues effecting working class people, is an impossibility for many of us. For most young people growing up in Ireland today the possibility of owning a house is outside our reach and keeps us at the mercy of rack renting landlords.
This situation is neither natural nor inevitable. It is the result of the actions of numerous governments, land speculators and the profit driven system in which we live. The housing crisis can be traced backed to the 1960s when the two main political parties in the state were bought off by the land speculators and even the Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, became a land speculator himself. The close links between land speculators and our business elite still exists with catastrophic consequences for working class people.

The media likes to paint our business elite and land speculators as noble entrepreneur’s who create the wealth of society and kindly help the rest of us. The reality is that these are parasitic scumbags who live off our work and get sickeningly rich by charging as much as they can for the necessities of live. Today in Dublin 90% of the land is owned by twelve firms or individual speculators. They only release a limited amount of land in each year in order to keep property prices high and maximise their profits, and the extent of those profits are mind blowing. Each site for a new house nets them an average of e200,000 which means that when they squeeze 15 houses to an acre they make 3,000,000.

Not only does this make it a lot more difficult for the rest of us to find somewhere to live but also, because the main goal is profit, the quality housing and our standard of living also suffers. Even those of us who manage to secure a mortgage are stuck paying money to the banks for the next forty or fifty years while the banks make exorbitant profits.

Proper planning for communities has been almost non existent. Roads, public transport, schools, clubs, playgrounds etc have not been provided for many or the new housing estates going up around the country. This results in gridlock on our roads in the morning, crowded schools and hospitals and is one of the causes of anti social behaviour.

The high price of housing forces many of us to spend years renting and lining the pockets of landlords. The increased demand for rented accommodation has allowed landlords across the country to increase rents and make conditions worse. The increase in demand for rented accommodation coupled with the increase immigration has resulted in a return to the style of slum tenement housing that is associated with the 19th century. Landlords take advantage of vulnerable and desperate people by squeezing as much money out of them as possible. It is not uncommon for landlords to fill run down houses with bunk beds and charge e70 per bed in dangerous, unsanitary and unpleasant conditions.

Of course none of this is really surprising. The aim of businessmen, land speculators and landlords is to make as much money as possible and their friends in government are usually glad to help them.

It’s clear that we can’t rely on politicians to sort out our problems, we have to try and solve them ourselves. Working class solidarity has proved an effective means in the past to oppose ruthless exploitation. Rent strikes, squatting and property occupations can force rent to be lowered and also pressure the government into increasing the supply of social housing. Democratic and vibrant tenants associations can give communities the confidence and ability to stand up to landlords and the state. A trade union movement, freed from the shackles of social partnership, has the power to mobilise massive numbers of people behind a campaign for decent affordable housing. It’s only when we come together and organise that we can effectively oppose those who exploit us and fight for better housing and the world that we want to see.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 100 Nov/Dec 2007

PDF of Workers Solidarity 100