UP Housing - The Solution To The Housing Crisis
Housing Crisis A Product of Government Choices
Ireland is in the grip of the worst housing crisis in modern history. Hundreds of thousands of families are now paying the price for decades of mismanagement of the housing sector by the establishment parties. At the extreme end of the crisis thousands of homeless children are living in hotels, B&B’s, family hubs and other forms of temporary emergency accommodation.
This appalling situation has arisen because successive governments have made the wrong choices in relation to housing. They have chosen to abandon their responsibility to directly provide housing to the people. And they have chosen to put land speculators, property developers, bankers, estate agents, landlords and other profiteers in effective control of the housing sector, with predictably disastrous results. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and The Green Party made these choices because they all share a fanatical belief in the private sector and profit-driven market economics.
It’s time for different choices to be made. It’s time to prioritise the needs of the people over the greed of the property vultures. It’s time to end the reign of the developers, bankers, landlords and their political fixers. It’s time for UP Housing.
A New Form Of Housing
Éirígí For A New Republic believes that housing is a fundamental human right that the state has a duty to directly provide to the people. We believe that the right to housing can only be vindicated through the creation of an entirely new form of housing called Universal Public Housing, or UP Housing for short.
UP Housing would provide hundreds of thousands of families with the secure, affordable homes that the current system denies them. Similar systems work successfully in Vienna and other cities across Europe. If they work there, they can work here in Ireland. Below are the key points of how UP Housing would operate:
The current system of ‘social housing’ is a creation of the political establishment. It has physically divided our society by creating segregated low-income housing developments. Concentrating poverty in this way was always going to lead to concentrations of the social problems that are associated with poverty. This in turn stigmatised ‘social housing’, a reality which suited those who profit from privatised housing. UP Housing is NOT the same as social housing.
UP Housing would see the state building hundreds of thousands of new homes and buying up hundreds of thousands of existing homes. This ‘build and buy’ programme would address the overall lack of housing supply and help to create a better social mix within our current housing stock.
UP Housing would be open to everyone that is in need of a home, regardless of their income. Retail workers, pensioners, teachers, students, unemployed workers, builders, nurses and every other occupation would live side by side in UP Housing developments. This sort of mixed-income housing would create balanced communities and end the stigma associated with the failed model of ‘social housing’.
UP Housing would provide people with the absolute security of tenure that they are denied in the private rental sector. This could include inter-generational tenancies in a mature UP Housing system. Security of tenure is essential for people to make important decisions about work, creches, schools and other life decisions. It also helps create stable, long-term communities.
Those on higher incomes would pay a higher rent than those on lower rents, but nobody would pay more than they can afford. Unlike the private rental sector rents would also rise and fall with the income and stage-of-life of the tenant. For example the rent of a tenant would drop during a period of unemployment or illness. Similarly, the rent of a tenant would drop if a tenant returned to education or training for a period of time.
Unlike the private sector UP Housing developments would be designed and built to facilitate balanced communities, not maximum profits. This means that developments would include different housing types and sizes to suit all ages, family sizes and needs. Tenants could voluntarily move to larger or smaller homes within the same area, dependent on their stage of life and needs. This would be done without the stress and costs associated with buying and selling homes in the private sector.
In the mid 1960s Charlie Haughey began the systematic and heavily-discounted sell-off of publicly-owned homes to tenants. Twenty years later Margaret Thatcher adopted a similar policy for Britain and the Six Counties. Today we are living with the catastrophic consequences of those tenant purchase schemes. The housing crisis can only be permanently ended through increasing the percentage of publicly-owned housing within the overall housing stock to at least 30%. For this reason UP Housing will remain in permanent public ownership.
While the creation of new system of UP Housing will require significant state investment in the short term, it will be largely self-funded by the rent generated from mixed income tenants over the entire life-cylcle of a home. The calculation of those rents would be linked to construction, maintenance and financing costs as well as the income and circumstances of the tenant. UP Housing would also bring an end to the squandering of billions of euros of public monies on the temporary rental of emergency accommodation and homes from the private sector.
The wider indirect economic benefits of UP Housing would be significant if not easily calculable. The inherent boom / bust nature of the private housing market and the threat that this represents to the construction sector and the wider economy would be moderated by the creation of a permanent state-backed house building programme. Wage pressures on private and public sector workers would be moderated as workers would no longer be subject to ever-increasing rents and house prices. Monies that would otherwise be used to pay extortionate private rent or over-priced mortgages would instead be used by UP Housing tenants to boost the real economy.
The social benefits of UP Housing would be transformative for Irish society. Millions of men, women and children would be provided with the secure and affordable homes that the current system denies them. The stability of a ‘forever home’ is a prerequisite for putting down roots and the development of a stable community. Affordable rents would reduce the financial pressure on families, allowing for better work-life balances. The ending of segregated ‘social housing’ would create more stable communities and help break down existing class barriers.
Join The Fight For Housing Justice!
The fight for housing justice has been Éirígí’s priority campaign since 2016. In November of that year we officially launched our campaign for Universal Public Housing in the headquarters of the UNITE trade union in Dublin. A year later Éirígí was one of a number of individuals and groups that came together to launch the Campaign For Public Housing.
While there is still a long way to go, our consistent and coherent lobbying for UP Housing has helped to shift the national conversation away from private-sector focused solutions to the housing crisis. Since 2016 a number of political parties, trade unions, housing organisations and other civic groups have adopted housing policies that echo our demand for universal mixed-income public housing.
In addition to advocating for a new system of UP Housing, our party members have also been active in other aspects of the fight for housing justice including:
Helping to establish and develop community-based housing action groups.
Taking part in housing related direct actions including the resisting evictions, the Apollo House occupation and Take Back The City.
Working with homeless outreach groups to provide food, drink, clothing, tents and other assistance to rough sleepers who have been failed by the state.
Highlighting and challenging the takeover of housing by vulture funds and other private corporations.
Working with individuals and families who are being subjected to rack-renting, economic evictions, sub-standard housing, homelessness and other consequences of the housing crisis.
We believe the fight for housing justice can be won if enough people get involved in a mass movement to demand it. If you’re ready to join the fight for housing justice please get in touch today by email at email@example.com