Public land, public homes — Why can’t the government deliver?

By Martina Stafford 

According to a recent report published by The Land Development Agency (LDA), the government has the capacity to build 67,000 “affordable” homes on public land.

In 2018, the LDA was tasked with fully utilising state lands to build public homes. After five years and €3.5 billion not a single home on state land has been delivered. All 270 homes they delivered in 2022 were acquired from some of the biggest developers in the country, essentially gifting public money to private hands yet again. The LDA report states that it will take another five to ten years to deliver 9,760 of the homes identified in the report. Many of these will actually be stalled or unviable housing projects purchased from private developers. 

Reliant on the private market 

The annual staff bill for the agency is €2.2 million with an average salary of more than €93,000. John Coleman, the chief executive of the LDA, is paid €200,000 per annum. The fat wages and deep pockets of these bureaucrats and the class of capitalists that feed off housing as a commodity is the cholesterol blocking the delivery of homes for ordinary people. No state agency can actually construct homes without having to go through the private market which requires profit to function. This pushes up rents, house prices, building costs etc., making a home into a commodity that is beyond the reach of most ordinary people. 

Given that over 11,700 are living in emergency accommodation, including 3,500 children, and that 4,500 eviction notices fell in the final quarter of 2022, you would imagine that high up on the list of priorities would be the need to use public lands to provide additional homes. But this would require quite a different political ideology that puts public interest before private greed. 

What can be done?

There are 166,000 vacant homes in the state; 50,000 have been derelict for over six years. There are massive amounts of public land that are suitable for building public homes. As well as this, private developers are engaging in land hoarding for speculation purposes. The political parties that represent the interests of the landlords and developers are determined to defend the profits and wealth of this cabal at the expense of ordinary people. 

We need a serious grassroots movement on housing, involving workers and communities in all cities and towns around the country centered around the following demands:

Organise actions outside local councils to pile on the pressure and demand they do not enable evictions! They should refuse to withdraw HAP payments from people facing eviction. 

Organise to resist evictions. Many will have no choice but to stay in their homes. Form a network of neighbours to stand in solidarity with all those facing eviction and backing up anyone who decides to resist by overholding. 

Immediate investment is needed to ensure all emergency accommodation have all they need to provide suitable and decent accommodation for all who are homeless. Workers in these centers should pressure unions to take action and link with housing campaigns to fight back. 

Convert vacant houses and dwellings into social and affordable homes. Pinpoint vacant council houses and derelict buildings in your area and demand immediate action. Construction workers should bring this issue into their unions and demand democratic say over construction projects, as well as pay and conditions. 

The trade union movement organises hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom face high rents, the threat of evictions and all the other injustices of this housing crisis. They should take the initiative to mobilise a mass fightback on housing.  

Launch a massive state house building programme, with direct employment of construction workers on trade union rates and conditions. For democratic public ownership of the major construction companies, so that their projects can be based on public need not profit.  

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