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Build Together to Solve the Housing Crisis

A new proposal to bring an end to the housing crisis seeks to place social solidarity at the centre of local authority developments, reports Gavin Mendel-Gleason.

In May, a radical proposal to end the housing crisis was published and gained the support of many of the country’s leading homelessness campaigners including Fr Peter McVerry and community activist John Bissett.

Solidarity Housing: Getting the vultures out of Irish Housing, hopes to address the high cost of public housing provision, unaffordable market rents, and social segregation and marginalisation all within one single plan.

Fr Peter McVerry an outspoken critic of the government’s response to the housing crisis said: “This document as an important contribution to our thinking on the most critical issue for Ireland today, namely housing and homelessness. The only way to ensure security of tenure and affordable accommodation for low-income families and those who are homeless is through social housing, that is housing that is under the control of the local authorities.

He added: “The private rented sector does not qualify as secure housing. We need to return to the previous decades of large-scale housing built by and for the local authorities, if we are to give everyone the right to a home.”

The Dublin Workers’ Party proposal seeks to tackle the systemic failure of housing provision as a whole in Ireland – in terms of quality, affordability, security of tenure and inclusivity. The crises in private rental and mortgage arrears have left more and more households without secure accommodation. This has created additional pressure on the social housing system. And yet only a tiny number of households are being housed each year.

The scheme proposes that in any given development, the state would rent 50% of homes to households who currently qualify for social housing and the rest to those who are not currently eligible. Rent for all households would be calculated as 15% of income up to €35,000, plus 30% of income above €35,000. As an example, a household with an income of €50,000 would pay a monthly rent of around €870 – significantly less than the current average market rent of €1,500 for a three-bedroom home in Dublin.

The plan opens the benefits of public housing – secure tenancy, stable community, and affordability – to the many new households experiencing housing difficulties. By moving housing provision of higher earners into social housing, the state no longer has to provide only for the most vulnerable. Investors are happy to take only the highest earners, forcing the state to take only the lowest, as this way they can extract higher profits. Under the Solidarity Housing scheme, any profits over cost would be used only to expand social housing provision or services or to provide income to the State.

While security of tenure in rental accommodation is notoriously bad in Ireland, Solidarity Housing hopes to provide better security than house ownership currently allows. As per December 2015, 8.5% of mortgages in arrears of over 90 days. There is a serious threat of repossession and eviction in such cases. With Solidarity Housing, rents would scale with incomes ensuring that tenants could afford payments as life circumstances change.

Solidarity Housing hopes to provide better security than house ownership currently allows

Workers’ Party Cllr. Éilis Ryan contrasted the proposal with Dublin City Council’s Housing Land Initiative, under which the council proposes to hand over land at O’Devaney Gardens (Dublin 7), St. Michael’s Estate (Dublin 8) and Oscar Traynor Road (Dublin 9) to private developers. Cllr. Ryan pointed out that: “The Housing Land Initiative reduces the amount of public housing on O’Devaney Gardens to just 30%. By contrast, under Solidarity Housing 50% of housing would be allocated to households with average or below average household incomes, with the remaining 50% allocated to households who, despiearning above the average wage, struggle to meet the escalating costs of private housing.

“All households would be equal stakeholders, renting from the state, with full security of tenure”.

To download Solidarity Housing: Getting the vultures out of Irish Housing visit

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