Much Ado About Housing.


In the words of the great James Connolly, if you can…

“…pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women (and children), without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart.”

With rents spiralling up faster than the cost of buying a house, many are being left struggling with the burden and stress of trying to make ends meet.

This burden is further exacerbated in the cases of families.  Having children is quite expensive.  The present state child support is not enough to feed, clothe and shelter even one child let alone to pay the exorbitant private rental rates expected by landlords.

There are now in excess of 7,000 homeless people in all of Ireland now.  2,500 of those being children. The largest concentration of homeless people is in the capital city, Dublin.

In budget 2017, the government has announced it is to build 47,000 new social housing units by 2021.  Well I submit, they could be building a lot more than that!  That’s only 9,400 units per year.  We could be building 47,000 in per year – but more about that later.

The numbers of homeless families and single people is increasing month on month.  The government needs to act now on this –  but they are not.

Tax revenues are increasing. Our Fine Gael government has collected €50 Billion alone in taxes and payments from banks (who still owe the state from “The Crash”).  If the government was to spend 10% of that; i.e. €5 Billion on building social housing they could build 50,000 housing units with that amount …or quite possibly more with careful allocation of finances and additional resources.

Given that the costing of building is on average, €100 per square foot and that the average two bedroom house is 1,000 square foot the government could be creating jobs and more, providing people with homes.  This costing is inclusive of VAT which the government is not privy to paying.  So the contention is that they could build a lot more.

  • Then there is also the fact of 165,000+ homes are being left vacant in Ireland, at this present moment in time.
  • There are 200,000 people on the social housing waiting list that would be delighted to get a home with secure tenure and fixed rents for the foreseeable.

Planning Ahead

In 2015 the government said it was going to spend €434 Million on buying these empty buildings to refurbish and house people.  There is still no sign of that happening.

The government is shelling out €267 Million per annum on rent allowance and Housing Assistance Programs.  Then added to this the government is spending a further €224 Million on “Emergency Accommodation”.  This comes to a total of €491 Million, per annum, for  housing people with private landlords and hotels respectively. Is Fine Gael is doing its best to look after the landlord business?

The landlords can put up their rents every two years, which they do so at will. The owners of the hotels can then whenever they want, kick families out of their premises onto the street without giving any reason and then put a new family in without any problems from the government.

I submit a suggestion to fellow UnitedPeople members and public, that it would be better to put limits on the landlords’ profits putting a cap on how much they can make each year in relation to their costs. Some thought also should be given to the notion to spend same amount mentioned (€491 Million) which would then build 5,000 houses. Surely this would be equally enough to start rehousing these families in two bedroom houses?

The question has to be asked!

The government now has said it is going to spend €5.3 Billion between now and 2021 on building housing as part of their “Rebuilding Ireland” stratagem and proposed to spend €1.2 billion in 2017.  But, they had been offered €5 Billion to build social housing – but they failed to take the offer.  The Irish League of Credit Unions offered the Government €5 Billion.

“It provides for much-needed social housing, it keeps the finance off the government books and it is good for our members,” Brian McCrory, President of The Irish League of Credit Unions told The Irish Times.

If they were to avail of that offer they could build 50,000 social housing units.  Think of that…

…Then add on the €5.3 Billion the Government is proposing to spend – then you get 100,000 homes.  That’s twice the amount proposed in their original plan and the 50,000 would be ready to go.  But? Yes, the Credit Union is still waiting for a response from Fine Gael while elsewhere it rolls from crises to crises and the homeless are still left without…

Why is the government ignoring such an offer?  It covers all of their proposed costs and leaves them with an equal sum to build more or to spend on other things.

An estimated 25,000 new homes are needed a year in Ireland, this is a combined figure of social and private housing. 10,000 of these new homes are required for Dublin. “Rebuilding Ireland” should be aiming to build 125,000 homes given these numbers.  At height of Celtic Tiger 75,000 houses built each year.

Rebuilding Ireland” sounds good. Is Fine Gael hoping it will be enough of a vote grabber?  In truth when you look realistic at the facts, it does not go far enough – so why has the present Government ignored the offer from the Credit Union?  Their offer of €5 Billion could also compensate their shortfall in spending. What is the real reason for their stalling on this?

One in five sitting TD’s in the Dáil at this present time are landlords.  It could be that there are too many landlords in government and that they and their colleagues (also landlords) are making massive profits (which they then get tax breaks on for granting rent allowance) with no regulation on the pricing of rents in relation to outgoings on mortgages etc.

The benefits of building social housing are immense.

  1. Creates jobs.
  2. Creates revenue rents collected.
  3. Looks good to other countries seeing us putting together a good structured plan. This feeds into business confidence and social stability.
  4. …Which in turn can attract even further foreign production and job market creation and investment.
  5. It saves money on social and mental health problems associated with homelessness.

So, as we can see, there is options for the FG/FF proxy coalition but they remarkably are not willing to avail of them. With their continued foot in government offices and corridors of power, often with potential conflicting interests (and self-profit in mind), the only conclusive outcome we can arrive at is, there will always be much ado about housing – and then much more to do after they leave office.

As someone who works with the homeless on a regular basis I see the hardships first hand and know the problems that are faced by the people who are rough sleepers.  Coming into the winter months is a hard time for those people I help.

I want this issue addressed with the utmost urgency as it is the biggest crisis this country has faced since gaining our independence.  Again, remember what James Connolly said, if you can…

“…pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women (and children), without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart.”

Well, in my opinion we have a number of frauds and liars in government who are not acting with the due impetus they should be moving forward with, to address this matter.

Remember, there are children’s education (being disturbed through non-stability) and very lives at stake while they have to stress with their parents, if they have a roof over their heads while just trying to live from day to day!  2,500 children are homeless now and that number is increasing month on month.

When is local and national elected, who continue to fail their own county, city or town’s people, finally going to get their act together and do what is actually right by them?

I suspect James Connolly if alive today, would have a few harsh words for present elected.


Alistair Frederick Smith.
UP National coordinator.

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