Housing For People
Not For Profit

 

 

Housing Policy

 

 

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT

The right to a secure home is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Like food and education, housing is considered necessary for people to live with dignity, to realise their potential and to become part of a wider community. Adequate housing is particularly important for young people as they grow and develop – but the Irish government is failing to deliver this for every child.

Instead of supporting people’s fundamental human rights, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have allowed market forces to create the worst housing crisis in the history of the state.

Homelessness and housing poverty are at record levels in a society that also channels massive profits to building companies, developers and international speculators.

As in so many areas, both of the right-wing parties have compromised the needs of the many for the profits of the few. The current homelessness figures show their callousness particularly clearly.

A right to housing now

People Before Profit have fought tirelessly against this injustice. In March 2017, we were the first political party to put a Right2Housing Bill to the Dail – but this was voted down by the establishment parties. Then in October 2018, People Profit brought a cross-party motion which called on the government to declare a housing emergency in order to:

  • Increase the supply of social and affordable housing through an extra €2.3 billion in Budget 2019;
  • Increase the contribution of private builders from 10-20% of their developments – and 30% in strategic areas;
  • Make it illegal to evict people into homelessness and;
  • Hold a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the constitution.

This motion passed with 83 voting for and only 43 against. It was also backed by many organisations in civil society, including the trade unions, charities, housing activists and political parties associated with the Raise the Roof Campaign.

This campaign put 12,000 people demonstrating support on the streets as the motion went through, but despite this democratic pressure from inside and outside the parliament, Fine Gael haven’t budged.

If the government took the €13 billion that Apple owes in back tax and embarked on a major public and affordable building programme, it would clear the waiting lists and end the scourge of homelessness. But it would also reduce private sector rents, mortgages and profits – hurting the bankers, builders, developers and vulture funds at the centre of the government’s housing strategy. Fine Gael want property prices to remain high in the private sector, and they are willing to accept the human misery that goes along with this to achieve their objective.

We have a different strategy.

Build public housing:
Create a social mix

There are two key problems with the government’s public housing strategy – they don’t build enough and they make it too difficult to get one. Last year, local authorities built just 2,022 public houses despite the fact that they hold land that could be used for 48,724. In total, the state was building on less than 1% of the land available to it, according to the Rebuilding Ireland Land Availability Survey 2018.

The second key problem is the threshold for getting these houses. This is currently set far too low with a family of 3 adults and 4 children allowed to earn no more than €30,000-€42,000 depending on the local authority. This ring-fences public housing for the lower paid and helps to reinforce the FG dogma that public housing estates are breeding grounds for anti-social behaviour. The reality is that poverty and unemployment create these problems not the residents or their houses.

To create a genuine social mix in vibrant communities, People Before Profit advocate public house-building on public land alongside a lifting of the income cap for people who live there.

This would have the following positive effects for people in the property market:

  • End a homelessness crisis that is robbing children of their futures.
  • Clear the social housing waiting list within five years.
  • Reduce the stress of mortgage arrears as public housing becomes a viable alternative.
  • Reduce the cost of private rent as many people move out of the rental sector.
  • Reduce the incentives for land hoarding and speculation as private builders face competition from public providers.
  • Reduce the cost of private mortgages as buying a house would become less attractive.
  • End the stigma of social housing and help to create more social cohesion.

Can this be done?

Fine Gael are refusing to build for political reasons, but it can easily be done. Local Authorities currently control zoned land for 49,000 housing units with the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) controlling land for a further 65,000.

A major state building programme is the most effective way to ensure we get the houses we need. It is also far cheaper than the private sector. Consider the table below from the Society of Chartered Surveyors in 2016.

When the cost of land, taxes, commercial fees and profits are stripped out, house building becomes far more affordable for ordinary people. The state can also borrow cheaper than private builders making public building logical from both a cost and delivery perspective. Last year, the Department of Finance confirmed that building houses would cost the following amounts:

All of this makes it crucial that the National Assets Management Agency stop selling land to the private sector. By using public land, we can build tens of thousands of social housing at relatively low prices. But the condition is that we rely on public investment -rather than on the private market.

Affordable homes

Many people still want to buy their homes even if public housing is provided at relatively low rents. The problem is that property prices are too high and many are stuck in high rental traps.

They key mechanism for providing affordable homes is controlling the price of building land. Currently, the big developers are buying up land in and around cities and then sitting back while the price of this land escalates as they get planning permission.

The register of vacant land for the Dublin City Council area alone has 200 sites, valued in the region of €220m. But builders are happy to accumulate large land banks, leaving them idle until the price of development land rockets.

People Before Profit want to:

  • Establish a Renters’ Board mandated to cut rents and keep them in line with the Consumer Price Index. This would create genuine rent controls as opposed to the governments rent pressures zones that do not work;
  • Ban all evictions into homelessness and move to give renters security for life;
  • Tie rent to people’s income like they do in cities like Vienna;
  • Establish a dedicated Agency to oversee the delivery of culturally appropriate Traveller accommodation and increase supply for people with disabilities and special needs;
  • Increase funding for refuges for those fleeing domestic violence.

Taken together, these measures would reassert the needs of people over property, vindicating our fundamental rights to stability and security.

This is surely what our housing policy should always have been delivering.

Renters

Renters are currently paying €1,300 on average and more than €1,600 in Dublin. These represent the highest rents in the history of the state, but, despite this, tenants have never been more vulnerable. A recent report by the United Nations working group on human rights and transnational corporation’s denounced the government for selling 90% of its stock to vulture funds who are pushing people out of their homes. Our parliament declared its opposition to this practice in October so we must now act.
To protect tenants’ rights and advance the rights of vulnerable minorities, People Before Profit would:

  • Establish a Renters’ Board mandated to cut rents and keep them in line with the Consumer Price Index. This would create genuine rent controls as opposed to the governments rent pressures zones that do not work;
  • Ban all evictions into homelessness and move to give renters security for life;
  • Tie rent to people’s income like they do in cities like Vienna;
  • Establish a dedicated Agency to oversee the delivery of culturally appropriate Traveller accommodation and increase supply for people with disabilities and special needs;
  • Increase funding for refuges for those fleeing domestic violence.

Taken together, these measures would reassert the needs of people over property, vindicating our fundamental rights to stability and security.
This is surely what our housing policy should always have been delivering.