Housing crisis and political change


Sir, – Michael McDowell’s warning to his political peers that the system faces a “major transformation” because a “generation” is being “deprived of any realistic prospect of home ownership” or is forced to pay “eye-watering rents” is surely ill-focused (“Concentration of property wealth in hands of a few will bring political change”, Opinion & Analysis, April 28th). Whether Article 45 of the Constitution is being breached or not (“That, especially, the operation of free competition shall not be allowed so to develop as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential commodities in a few individuals to the common detriment”) is for others to determine; however, those he seeks to advise on the practical art of politics may well be misled by the piece simply because it restricts itself to naming symptoms only. The disease is of course a housing policy that commodifies homes and lets the market determine accessibility. It is this policy that will see the current Government parties heavily punished at the next election. The correct policy is for Government to directly oversee a housing policy that plans to meet need by ensuring that sufficient secure, decent social houses are available with rents related to the occupant’s income thus ensuring accessibility. Regarding home “ownership”, the State has no obligation to involve itself in assisting such ambitions. It is obvious that when the politicians do so involve themselves in this the motivation is other than to provide for the common good.

Overall, Michael McDowell’s observations are unhelpful as they imply that the Government is a hapless bystander when in fact the crisis is of its making. The market will never “solve” the housing crisis because that is not its priority; thinking otherwise is a one-way ticket to political oblivion. – Yours, etc,