The growing demand for housing: What is to be done?

Dublin has a growing population of just over 1,273,069 people. Of those, over 42,000 are on the social housing waiting list, 16,489 of whom are children, while overall there are over 90,000 nationwide. There are around 130 plus rough sleepers on the streets of Dublin at any giving time, scores of families are living in inhumane conditions in Direct Provision, and over 1,000 children are now confirmed as being homeless throughout the country. House repossessions have tripled as more people are being made homeless every day while rents continue to spiral out of control; meanwhile, a confirmed 11 percent of TDs are landlords.

In the 1990’s the emergence of Private Public Partnership Deals (PPPs) had enabled a new manifestation of neoliberalism to seep into the cracks of Irish society. The PPPs were designed to maximise profits for real estate capitalists, and had hardly anything at all to do with decent housing or area regeneration for the local indigenous working class populations.

The Urban Renewal Act, 1986, empowered the Minister for Environment to designate areas of the city for urban renewal. The establishment of a Special Purpose Development Agency SPDA, and Custom House Docks Development Authority CHDDA quickly followed and operated entirely outside the jurisdiction of Dublin Corporation.

As the Irish governments shift away from Keynesianism dominated economics materialised, the emergence of the neoliberal state, whose function it was to set up the legal structures and functions required to secure private property rights and to guarantee, by force if needs be, the proper functioning of the markets, had enabled and promoted the private sector to push through with PPPs into Dublin’s inner city communities, regardless of the far reaching consequences that lay ahead.

Power was immediately expropriated from Dublin Corporation, furthermore, empowering the private sector and enabling it to operate outside the jurisdiction of local authorities, while state intervention was kept to a bare minimum.

Be that it may, having being deprived of all power and influence, to this day Dublin City Council (DCC) continue to promote PPPs in social housing regeneration more so than any other local authority. Not even the spectacular crash of Dublin’s PPPs in 2008 would deter DCC from pushing ahead with the neoliberal model.

The result of this is that many families are now left again in limbo, as the fate of their dilapidated, and derelict communities hang in the balance. While those who continue to live under the yoke of the last remaining PPP deals to survive, the subsequent gentrification process and unyielding social cleansing is starting to take its toll as whole social structures of mainly working class neighbourhoods are completely destroyed, and entire communities are socially cleansed in the process.

During the so-called Celtic Tiger era, a flow of capital had ensured property speculators and developers each had a nice tidy sum of money to gamble high on the housing stock in Ireland. Millions of Euros were pumped into the housing bubble by gambling merchants. Reaching tipping point in an orgy of overproduction, the bubble soon burst back down to earth with a crash. Bringing down with it an entire economy in the process, and leaving hundreds and thousands of families without home within what is now a man-made scarcity of housing alongside a vast overproduction of housing stock that is going to waste.

When the banks started to crumble one by one and capital accumulation stagnated, housing stock became devalued, and sometimes even physically destroyed, as we observed when the destruction of some of the so-called ‘ghost estates’ around the country began.

Even right now an overproduction of surplus housing stock is still going to waste, for example, an estimated 300,000 plus empty homes lie vacant nationwide. The mere fact the capitalist class would prefer to knock them down, board them up, rather than house people in them, while reverting back to the same property bubble that fucked us over in the first place, just goes to show the complete and utter lunacy of the system.

Entering deeper into the abyss of a heartless world run by multinational corporations, gambling merchants, and speculators . . . neoliberal urban policy initiatives, that favour big business concepts and designs, have created the political and economic arrangements to quickly make a buck through back door shenanigans and shady dealings, and by disempowering local authorities, have turned housing into a money-spinner for the greedy landlord and capitalist class.

Combined with hegemonic neoliberal market logics and capitalist greed, the rise in rapid urbanisation coupled with poorly managed housing amenities and services, have all greatly attributed in some way shape or form to the most contemptible housing crisis Ireland has seen in decades.

Furthermore, Ireland is host to some of the most privileged minorities on the planet; however, amidst all the luxury and prestige extreme poverty and marginalisation are on the rise for the majority. Rapidly widening disparities between those who produce the wealth and those who control it is widely accredited to the problem. Consequently, just 1% of the population own 34% of all the wealth, and out of those few mega rich entities, five individuals in the country own 500 houses each, a staggering amount even by today’s standards.

Social exclusion continues to play a major role in creating some of the conditions of poverty and marginalisation, and usually is accompanied by a myriad of other social injustices and inequalities too.

While poverty may refer to somebody being poor because of a lack of material resources, social exclusion is defined by the inability to participate fully in society in ways that are only partly shaped by material resources.

The issue of housing is just one aspect where social exclusion has played a major role and impacted on the health and well-being of those who are denied full rights to have any say whatsoever on how we should live our lives. And because housing rights in Ireland are mainly individualistic and property-based, the collective rights for the majority of us goes largely unchallenged.

The process of giving private property rights chief precedence, above all, the collective rights of humanity and the urgent housing needs for the population at large, has left hundreds and thousands of people in a vulnerable situation.

It comes as no surprise then to find so many people on the bottom rung of the bureaucratic ladder fighting for a basic human right such as housing.

So what is to be done?

The notable anarchist, and renowned sociologist, Emma Goldman, once argued: “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.”

An Spréach argue likewise for these simplest of basic human rights: ask for housing, if they don’t give you housing, then take housing.

3Of the 300,000 plus over production surplus housing stock lying idle, working alongside our comrades in theIrish Housing Network, we have begun the task of liberating one of them, the Bolt Hostel, and putting to use for the common good a home for families in need.

For the past while, our comrades have been hard at work transforming this one time hostel back into the building it was once designed for before it was abruptly closed down.

We believe that in the ensuing crisis, one ought to be afforded basic human rights over the rights in property, and to this end we advocate opening up any empty homes, where deemed appropriate, to house people in need, both as in practical use, and as a means to highlight the housing situation in Ireland.

An Spréach remains committed to organising against the barbarism of the capitalist crisis and helping people into home. We call on all other likeminded comrades to help us in this crucial endeavour, and join us as we collectively challenge the power structures of the system with direct action for decent housing for all.


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