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JCFJ urges support for housing rally

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice urged people to support the “Raise the Roof” Housing Rally outside Leinster House, Wednesday 3 October 2018, from 12.30 to 2pm, saying that this was an important opportunity to highlight the depth of the housing crisis and the need for a radical change in the Government’s housing policies. In particular, the Centre urged Christians to come out and support the rally.

Speaking on the eve of the event, Fr Peter McVerry of the Jesuit Centre said:

“As Christians, we must be profoundly disturbed by the fact that in Ireland, one of the richest countries in the world, hundreds of thousands of people are enduring insecure, overcrowded and unsuitable living conditions, financial hardship, stress and anxiety, as a result of housing problems of one kind or another. This situation represents a grave social injustice, with deeply damaging consequences for individuals, families, and society as a whole.”

Fr McVerry added:

“The impact of the housing crisis has now being experienced by a wide range of people in our society – most obviously, those who are homeless, but also young people forced to pay a disproportionate share of their income on rent or unable to leave home because of lack of accommodation; older people in private rental housing living in fear of losing their home because of an unaffordable rent increase; people living in Direct Provision even after they have been given refugee status because there is no alternative accommodation available; young people on middle incomes seeing their aspiration to own their own home becoming ever more unattainable.”

More socially just housing policies are possible

Margaret Burns of the Jesuit Centre, said:

“More socially just policies – starting from the recognition that housing is above all a basic social good and not another market commodity – are possible. The Jesuit Centre is calling on the Government to:

  • Base housing policies on the principle that housing is a fundamental human right; hold a referendum to enable the people of Ireland insert a right to housing in their Constitution;
  • Adopt the principle that long-term social housing need will be met by housing supplied through local authorities and voluntary housing bodies, rather than relying on the subsidisation of rents in the private rental sector; set a target of least 10,000 additional social housing units each year;
  • Extend the provisions for rent regulation beyond the rent pressure zones to cover the whole country; limit rent increases to rises in the Consumer Price Index;
  • Use public land for the public provision of social and affordable housing;
  • Introduce legislation, covering a period of three years, to prohibit banks, vulture funds and landlords evicting people into homelessness, except in extreme circumstances such as refusal to pay rent or antisocial behaviour;
  • Maximise the use of the Mortgage to Rent scheme, and make it obligatory on financial institutions to participate, unless exceptional circumstances prevail;
  • Introduce an escalating tax on properties left empty without reason; encourage and enable local authorities to compulsory purchase properties left empty for extended periods.

The failure of current policies

Ms Burns went on to say:

“The Government claims that its Housing Action Plan, Rebuilding Ireland, is bearing results. However, a key indicator of the success of that Plan must surely be whether or not it is effective in reducing homelessness. The reality is that August 2018, there were 9,527 people living in emergency accommodation, 3,000 more than in July 2016 when Rebuilding Ireland was published. In other words, officially recorded homelessness has increased by 46 per cent over the past two years. But current figures on homelessness reflect “adjustments” that have excluded people who would have been previously included, suggesting that the upward trend is even greater than the official figures show. Moreover, the Minister for Housing has recently said is that homelessness may not yet have peaked. The rally was an opportunity to say to the Government that its policies are not working and must be radically changed.”

She added:

“Other key indicators also show that the underlying housing situation is still deteriorating. Private sector rents have increased continually since Rebuilding Ireland was published. By the end of Quarter 2 of 2018, average rents nationally stood at €1,094, which is €136 higher than in mid-2016. In Dublin City, during the last two years, average monthly rents have risen by €205 (from €1,382 to €1,587), representing an increase of 15 per cent, despite Dublin being designated as a rent pressure zone. Furthermore, on average house prices have increased by 16 per cent over the last two years and by almost 20 per cent in Dublin.

Fr McVerry said:

“The Government’s current approach to addressing the housing crisis is based on the flawed ideology of relying on the private market in order to meet an essential social need and a basic human right. That approach is all too evident in the recent decision to hand over thousands of acres of public land for housing construction by private developments, with only 10 per cent of the output designated for social housing and a further 30 per cent for ‘affordable housing’ . It is evident also in the extent to which the Government is relying on the subsidisation of rents in the private rental sector, even though this leaves tenants with no real security and is now costing the State around €2 million euro a day.”