No-one is coming to the rescue – Oisin Fagan on the Housing Crisis

eviction    eviction 2

Conservatively speaking, Ireland has been suffering from a perpetual housing crisis since the foundation of its state. Before the Irish state was won the housing crisis could have been viewed as one of the many unavoidable outcomes of several centuries of coercive occupation. Now we are told that it is just an unavoidable component of having a modern, working economy.

This perpetual housing crisis has mutated quite violently over the last decade, and its most recent incarnation has finally begun turning a few heads because the complex interplay between mortgage arrears, spiralling rents and, most importantly, the abject and criminal failure of the state to build social housing, has run its ragged way through the whole gamut of classes and property-forms that compose Irish society. It is no longer merely the crisis of the underclass, the impoverished rural, the working class, the migrant, the emigrant, and the traveller. It is now a national crisis, one felt by even the landlord, the property developer and the mortgage holder. There are winners, of course; all immiseration and tumult breeds money for speculators. International vulture funds are buying up our two largest cities in swathes at knockdown prices while simultaneously having their debts written off under a scheme called NAMA: a government organisation more secretive and less accountable than MI5, whose only social criteria is to permanently erase itself from existence within five years, like a suicidal magician made of your tax.

So, where are we now? One family a day is going homeless. These homeless are the vanguard, the visible 1/8th of the iceberg; underneath them is a mass of people living in dread of the threat of homelessness. Homelessness will accelerate exponentially in mid-2016 after the giveaway budget, where housing will feature strongly, has worn off (you read it here first). The councils will run out of money by about mid-November, and the crisis will spiral into an epidemic in the coldest months of the year. There is no doubt that homeless people will die this winter because they cannot access homeless accommodation due to demand; the question now is how many will die? There are 1,037 homeless children in Dublin alone, and that figure is a conservative one. By the time you read this you can add at least another couple of hundred children to that number. The banks have been told by the government to cool off the violent evictions until after the election, which will probably be in October. There has been a media coup to endorse prefabs for the homeless; that are supposedly temporary, but will be about as temporary as that USC thing that you see on your wage slip every week. Ireland is, basically, entering an era of gated communities, where economic disparity is so high that it becomes dangerous, not only for the poor, as it always was, but for the rich too. Look at Sao Paulo, look at London. Gentrification is decentralising poverty to where it is less visible, but the displaced are a growing multitude.

The fact is that the only perfect solution to ending this housing crisis once and for all is to build a hundred thousand units of social housing ten years ago.

Since we’ll all be voting soon, it may as well be said that the state could end this housing crisis within twelve months. It could do this by declaring a state of emergency, which would allow it to access greater funds, and even allow it to requisition unused private property for the common good, as is written into our constitution.

This will not happen.

It would be tantamount to a cross-party admission of guilt. No major political party will do anything but slightly mutate the housing crisis into another form. Housing will undoubtedly be on the agenda for the next election, and regardless of how far to the right the campaigning party is they will still have to pay lip service to the middle classes and alleviate the debt of mortgage holders in arrears; those further to the left will trumpet rent control, which is incredibly important and necessary, but rent controls will not fundamentally diminish the housing crisis in any meaningful way unless they are combined with other interlocking strategies that, so far, aren’t on the table. From the perspective of a housing activist, no party can be endorsed, and no party, in its current form, has the ability to stop the housing crisis.

Electoralism is an imperative: mere electoralism is insufficient. This unfortunately means that the responsibility lies with you, as an individual, to communally work for a less vicious society. No one is coming to the rescue, and if they say they are; they’re lying.

This would involve you starting a community group that concerns itself with housing, or joining a local housing group if one exists.

To learn where your nearest housing group is please email: irishhousingnetwork@gmail.com
Or message:

https://www.facebook.com/irishhousingnetwork

For a very modest set of highly-achievable demands that would dull the sharpest edges of the housing crisis, please visit:

http://irishhousingnetwork.org/about/

To learn where your nearest housing group is please email: irishhousingnetwork@gmail.com
Workshops, skills, education and various forms of support are there for those suffering from the crisis at the above links.
Oisin Fagan

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