The housing crisis and the left

 

Sir, – If Mark Paul is seriously trying to understand the housing crisis, I suggest that he takes a look at the decision taken by the government under Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney to outsource the provision of social and public housing (“The left always thinks it is right about housing crises”, Business Opinion, June 21st).

That decision is the mother and father of the current calamity and the problem will remain without any prospect of a solution until that policy is reversed.

But probably what rankles the most with the piece is the oft-cited claim that the Labour Party is “champion of the working classes”.

This, of course, is utterly wrong, as any worker on the likes of zero-hour contracts or those workers who have joined the State pensioner ranks since 2012 will readily attest to. The Labour Party ceased to be of any value at all to working people the moment it decided to accept the role of mudguard in a 2½-party system of governance.

In order to get that policy change accepted it was necessary to weaken the influence of the trade union movement, which has resulted in trade unions becoming about as effective at protecting workers’ rights as a neutered horse is at a stud.

Towards the end of the piece, perhaps the real purpose begins to emerge from beneath the waffle. We are told that there is a “pressing need to keep a lid on soaring building costs, and that includes labour costs”.

These, we are told, must be “brought under control to allow industry expand to meet the crisis”, with not a mention of the need to control profiteering from land hoarding or rent and house-price gouging for citizens desperately trying to put a roof over their heads. – Yours, etc,

JIM O’SULLIVAN,

Rathedmond,

Sligo.

Sir, – Contrary to what your columnist Mark Paul asserts, Raise the Roof has never stated, claimed, asserted or even implied that the Right to Housing represents some form of “silver bullet” in the context of the current housing emergency.

Such simplistic reductionism does your columnist or paper no favours.

Equally, his observations on cost fails to acknowledge that wage rates in the sector are governed by a sectoral employment order (SEO), which all relevant parties input into and which is approved in turn by the Oireachtas.

Tellingly, he overlooks the fact that a key driver of housing cost is the flood of speculative investment capital that has priced a generation out of the housing market and turned housing into a commodity, as opposed to a public good.

Raise the Roof has consistently argued that a right to housing is but one component of an overall resolution to a crisis that emanates from a dysfunctional housing market and official policy that is ideologically fixated on market solutions to profound social problems.

Our support for the right to housing echoes the 2014 recommendation of the Constitutional Convention (on including a right to housing in the Constitution) – a recommendation that has since been conveniently buried in a Dáil committee.

A similar argument had been made by the UN Special Rapporteur for Housing, Leilani Farha, while the Children’s Ombudsman recently opined that such a right should be considered, to help bring an end to the current emergency.

Our full and clearly articulated platform, available on the raisetheroof.ie website, calls for the declaration of a housing emergency; stronger protection for tenants against eviction and on rent certainty; investment in a major programme of public housing; and the creation of a legal right to housing.

In fact, these measures were overwhelmingly endorsed by the Dáil in October 2018, as they formed the core of an opposition party motion on housing that was supported by 83 TDs and by Raise the Roof.

In 1975, the State – working through local authorities – built 8,794 new homes. Last year, that figure was a mere 838.

Surely the attention of The Irish Times would be better spent examining these figures and asking why, nine months on, such a critical Dáil motion remains unimplemented? – Yours, etc,

MACDARA DOYLE,

Raise the Roof

Coordinator,

Irish Congress

of Trade Unions,

Parnell Square,

Dublin 1.