Serious investment in social housing is required as an alternative to Dublin council housing families in hotels or prefabs


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.

This is an 'alternative' to housing families in hotels, this month 156 families are being housed in hotels because the council has no other housing - the expected cost is 4.5 million. This is part of a decades long pattern where every year millions are handed to private investors through rent allowance and emergency payments, rather than being invested in building new, quality social housing units.

In an interview in the Irish Times, Brady admitted that evictions of people unable to pay mortgages was a significant reason for the rising homelessness saying "there’s no building going on and that is pushing the house inflation and an awful lot of it is repossessed properties. That has collateral damage. .. People living in these properties are being pushed back out into our services."

Another rapidly growing section of the new homeless population are those on low incomes who have been forced out of private rented accommodation by huge rent increases, as ruthless private landlords take advantage of the housing shortage. Irish law completely favours the rapidly growing gombeen landlords of the small capitalist class as tenants have no long term rights and landlords increase rents at will. Even short term rights to maintenance and repair are often flouted by ruthless landlords who fail to carry out repairs and threaten tenants with rent increases and evictions if they try and stand over their rights.

Two other groups have suffered terrible housing situations year after year. The first is Irish Travellers. Every council in the republic has failed to create accommodation suitable for Travellers as they are required to by law. The second is people in Direct Provision in the asylum process, who are not only forced to live without real access to privacy but can't even prepare their own food, and have to live on slightly over 19 euro a week. Far from being emergency temporary accommodation, people are stuck in those institutions year after year with some children knowing no other life.

Meanwhile all the government do is to try and create the conditions under which the property developers of the capitalist class can once more make billions out of a speculative bubble. On Sunday the Independent even published a piece headlined "Maverick developers needed to rev up our economy"

That craven piece, while admitting that "their private jets and fast-and-loose lifestyle gave us something tangible to direct anger towards", ends with the prediction that "Over the next two years, talented developers will fight their own way back, whether people like it or not"

In reality far from 'fighting their way back' they have been massively subsidised with public money through NAMA buying up all the bad bets they made last time. And in comparison with many they have been protected in the crisis, with several infamously insisting in court that they couldn't possibly exist on incomes below multiple thousands per week.

Back in July the Irish Times reported how "Businessman Harry Crosbie objects to a maximum of €5,000 in monthly living expenses, amongst other conditions, being sought by Nama. These conditions are in return for not enforcing a €77 million judgment against his home and other assets pending further legal proceedings, the Commercial Court heard." NAMA had sought to reduce his income to 1250 per week, over twelve times the rate that 18-24s now get on the dole after it was reduced to pay off the bad bets of the property developers from the crisis.

All these things are the fruits of the 'for profit' housing system under capitalism. It's a system of boom and bust where the costs of the busts are carried by workers caught out - either in terms of hopeless debt on homes bought before the bust, or the threat of rent increases and eviction. The profits are harvested by a tiny group of developers sitting on top of vast land banks, who use their wealth and power to make sure government policy creates new bubbles and protects them from the worst consequences of crashes, by imposing those costs on us.

WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )