By Councillor Brian McCarthy
For the third consecutive month the number of those living in emergency accommodation broke all records; it now stands at 12,847 people, 3,829 of whom are children. This increase of 247 from the previous month shows how rapidly this crisis is worsening, despite all the government assurances that large numbers of houses are being built.
However, that figure doesn’t even come close to showing the true scale of the crisis since it doesn’t include the people who’ve had to move in with friends or family, couch surfing, those in Direct Provision and shelters, or those forced to sleep rough. In September 2022, the Simon Community estimated as many as 290,000 people could be experiencing ‘hidden homelessness’.
Rising eviction notices
The situation will worsen over the coming months as the full impact of lifting the winter eviction ban will hit. In the two months after the ban was lifted, 5,735 eviction notices were issued to tenants. With many of these eviction notices due to come into effect in December, families will be made homeless just weeks before Christmas.
When challenged on these latest figures, Tánaiste Micheál Martin ruled out another winter eviction ban, claiming it ‘would do more harm than good’. He said his priority is stopping the mass exodus of private landlords from the market, potentially hinting at financial incentives in the upcoming budget – for landlords!
This shows again that his priority is to represent the interests of the people profiting from this crisis. This is unsurprising given that one-third of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs are landlords, indeed Minister for Housing Daragh O’Brien once had shares in a vulture fund.
Organise from below
The experiences of the anti-water charges and Repeal campaigns showed that when organised and united a mass movement can force through real change – despite the opposition of the establishment. A mass movement with demands for the eviction ban to be reinstated and made permanent, rents to be cut and capped at affordable levels, and a wealth tax to fund an emergency house-building scheme could achieve real change on the housing crisis. Crucially, we must bring the large construction companies into democratic public ownership, seize all the land, houses and apartments being hoarded for profit and ban vulture and cuckoo funds.
The root of the housing crisis is the reliance on the private market to house people, but the private market is a disaster as it functions entirely in the interests of landlords, developers and banks – whose only concern is how they can exploit increasingly desperate people to line their own pockets. Instead we need to break with this capitalist system and organise the housing needs of society in a democratic and planned way. Nothing less will actually meet our needs and solve this interminable crisis for good.