By Councillor Clare Daly
TWO YEARS ago, Anne her partner and her two children owned their own house and ran a small business. As the loan for the business was tied in with their house, when the business ran into trouble they lost their home also.
For over a year they have been renting in Swords and getting rent allowance. When her disability claim came through, the rent allowance was cut and with regular medical bills for herself and her son who has special needs, the family has €30 a week to pay for food and other bills, and is only surviving with help from the Vincent de Paul.
John is unemployed and in his late twenties. He lives with his parents and the Council refuse to allow him go on the housing list, because he is young and single. They say he can rent privately but he can’t get enough rent allowance to get anywhere decent.
Frank is separated with three children. He has a good job, but by the time he pays maintenance and because of his age and the fact that his name is still on the family home, he cannot get a mortgage for another property, and can only rent a room, seriously impacting on his relationship with his children.
All these are real people except for their names – all living in Swords. Their situation is similar to tens of thousands of others.
Meanwhile, Sean Dunne, and Sean Quinn, Gerry Gannon and all the rest of them continue to live in mansions, with the taxpayer footing the bill for their debts. This is an outrage against decency. There are over 250,000 empty properties owned by these big builders whose insatiable greed led to the bubble in the economy which fuelled the present crisis. Rather than using billions of taxpayers’ money to bail them out, these properties should be seized and used to meet the needs of people like Anne, John and Frank.
Overnight the housing waiting lists could be eliminated, and families put into decent accommodation, with a saving of hundreds of millions currently paid in rent allowance to private landlords, monies that could then be used for other essential public services.
If the banks were publicly owned and run in the interests of ordinary people then it would be possible straight away to order that no repossessions would take place that properties would be re-valued to reflect their real value and repayments calculated to more manageable levels.
Instead of the Councils being obliged to lease properties from the developers who cannot sell their vacant units, these properties should be offered to those who need a roof over their head, whatever their circumstances. People could then make repayments for their homes based on their income not inflated house prices. If they wanted to purchase their home, they could chose to do so, or if not they could continue renting, but with security and rights, not landlords’ whims.
It is a crime that the basic right to decent accommodation is being denied to so many people solely to protect the profits of developers. This theft must stop.