(11 October 2020) State must intervene directly in ‘dysfunctional housing market’, says letter to Housing Minister
Age Action joined with trade unions, housing bodies, political parties, women’s organisations, students' unions and civil society groups to jointly call on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to ensure Budget 2021 makes “a clear and decisive break” with the failed policies of the past and for the State to “intervene directly in our dysfunctional housing market.”
The joint call is made in a letter to Minister O’Brien from the Raise the Roof housing campaign ahead of Budget day, on October 13:
“Raise the Roof believes that Budget 2021 presents the Government with a major opportunity to make a clear and decisive break with the failed policies of the past by intervening very directly in the housing market, in order to reshape it in the interests of the citizens.”
The joint call is supported by the country’s largest trade unions, the main opposition political parties, the major housing agencies, national women’s groups and students' unions, a range of civil society bodies representing older people, Travellers and children and housing experts. (see full list below).
“The housing policy of successive governments has failed to deliver on affordable, secure and quality accommodation for hundreds of thousands of working families, young people, women, students, Travellers, older people, those with a disability and many others.
“As a result, we have experienced the longest running housing crisis in the history of the State.”
The joint call demands that Budget 2021 creates “a major State-led housing programme that would work with local authorities to build up to 20,000 public homes annually on public land, over the lifetime of the Government.”
It also calls for a guarantee that public land will be reserved “solely for public housing” and the reinstatement of the moratorium on evictions and rent rises for at least the duration of the Covid 19 emergency.
In addition, there must be a “complete overhaul of tenancy legislation to deliver security of tenure and rent certainty for tenants” along with an explicit commitment to hold a referendum on a ‘Right to Housing.’
The Programme for Government commits only to a ‘referendum on housing.’
The letter to the Housing Minister states: “It is our view that the housing market is now entirely dysfunctional and utterly disconnected from its core social purpose, with housing the ‘commodity of choice’ for speculative investment, thereby ensuring that the market primarily serves the interests of large institutional investors, developers and land speculators.
“Over recent years this failure has been painfully evident in: record waiting lists; the serious depletion of public housing stock; lack of security for tenants; record rent increases; the almost total absence of affordable homes to purchase and the highest numbers of homeless people in the history of the State.”
It points out that Minister O’Brien drew attention to these issues, while Fianna Fáil spokesperson on housing.
The wide range of organisations and parties supporting the call argue that a State-led housing programme “makes social and economic sense as it will help drive a post-pandemic recovery, tackle unemployment, stimulate job creation and growth and help boost living standards through a reduction in housing costs.
“The State-led programme will help generate savings through use of public land and, over the longer-term, by reducing the subsidies currently paid to private landlords along with the policy of purchasing social housing units from private developers.”
The Raise the Roof letter is signed and supported by:
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and major affiliated unions, including Siptu, Fórsa, Mandate and the Dublin Council of Trade Unions.
Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, The Labour Party, People before Profit/ Solidarity.
Focus Ireland, Inner City Helping Homeless, Simon Community, Home for Good, National Homeless & Housing Coalition.
National Women’s Council of Ireland, Union of Students in Ireland, Irish Traveller Movement, Children’s Rights Alliance, Age Action.
Dr Rory Hearne, Mel Reynolds (architect) and Fr Peter McVerry.