Public housing – money and land is there, political will isn’t 

By Robert Cosgrave 

The worst housing crisis in the history of the state goes from one catastrophic figure to another. Over 14,000 people in the state are living in emergency accommodation, with 4,200 children condemned to growing up in homelessness. On top of that there are more than 2,000 asylum seekers homeless. 

While the housing crisis throws those in homelessness to the wolves, for landlords across the country, this crisis has turned into a licence to print more and more money for themselves. The Irish state’s response to the crisis has been to throw money at landlords from all directions; it pays, on average, €34,000 a year to each landlord for homeless accommodation. 

Whole stretches of Dublin City Centre have become almost nothing but emergency accommodation; Gardiner Street in the north inner-city housed nearly one in ten of all homeless people in the state.

Example of Fingal Co.Co 

The one and most obvious solution to the housing crisis would be that of a mass programme carried out by the state of real social and affordable housing for working-class people. In the recent local elections, Socialist Party councillors in Dublin West Ruth Coppinger and John Burtchaell highlighted how Fingal County Council owns two land banks with the capacity for over 4,000 homes between them in Dublin 15 alone, an area among the sharpest affected by the current crisis. On these land banks, they have built a pathetic 67 houses up to now, and this from a council with reserves of €473 million!

The failure to build social and affordable housing stems from the deep links between the Irish political establishment and landlords and developers. This is not just measured in the number of TDs and councillors from the establishment parties who themselves are landlords – although that is not insignificant – but in the particular weight of this strata of landlords and developers within a historically weak Irish capitalist class. This calls for the building of a mass movement around the housing crisis, which needs to include within it a political struggle against this rotten establishment.

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