Housing crisis: put public welfare first

The Government’s softly-softly approach to the building sector has not worked

 

The “rights” of private property are prevailing over the welfare of society as building land is hoarded, tens of thousands of vacant properties lie idle, the demand for private and social housing is not being met and the number of people requiring emergency accommodation rises. Housing targets have been consistently missed and a more robust approach is required. The latest disappointing figures, slipped out by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy for the bank holiday weekend, showed a further rise in the number of people in emergency accommodation. Of the 5,046 homeless people involved, more than two-thirds are in Dublin.

There was better news concerning the number of homeless families with dependent children being accommodated in hotels and B&Bs. Between May and June, the number of families housed in inappropriate conditions fell by almost 200 in Dublin. Single parent families make up more than two-thirds of this cohort.

Three years ago, modular housing was promoted as a quick fix to traditional construction methods but it received a less than enthusiastic response from the industry and from some councillors and local officials. It was decided that 1,500 rapid build homes would be built in Dublin city and county by the end of next year. So far, 22 homes have been completed. A similar lack of urgency and resistance to change greeted a proposal by the Irish League of Credit Unions to lend up to €1 billion to approved housing associations over a six-year period for social housing. That was three years ago. Permission for the project, which has the potential to provide 10,000 homes, is still awaited from the Central Bank and the Department of Finance.

Housing output is failing to meet pent-up demand in spite of official supports and tax incentives. As a consequence, house prices and rents are rising and are contributing to homelessness and social misery. The Government’s softly-softly approach to the building sector has not worked. It is time the public’s welfare was given precedence over property rights.

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