Labour and Fine Gael housing policy is to enrich private landlords and boost their profits by not providing social housing and push more people into rent supplement arrangements. Figures reveal that the government gave €400 million to private landlords in 2012. The top 20 earners, all owning over 100 houses each, pocketed a massive €5 million. One landlord alone took €578,000 from the taxpayer! If €400 million was invested in social housing there would be 3,200 new three bed homes available to those on the waiting lists.
The economic crisis and austerity policies are making the housing waiting lists grow massively. There are currently 111,145 on the waiting lists with the local authorities nationally. The list was at 56,249 in 2008. Many local authorities have waiting lists lasting longer than 10 years.
Three-quarters of those on the housing waiting list are renting privately, many dependent on rent supplement. Rather than imposing a rent cap and taking on the landlords, Labour Party Minister Joan Burton has cut the rent supplement meaning renters, most of whom are already very hard-pressed, are forced to pay the difference. Housing charity Threshold has commented that Burton’s cut resulted in homelessness as families are unable to pay the rising rents.
A new property bubble has been emerging recently, in particular in the Dublin area. Dublin has seen a 7.5% increase in rents and there have been rises in the other cities also. In Dublin there has been a fall off of 43% in the number of houses available to rent, and a 27% reduction in other cities. There has also been rises in house prices in Dublin in the past year.
Ireland continues to experience a serious mortgage crisis. As of last September 141,520 mortgages were in arrears according to the Central Bank. There are also tens of thousands not in arrears but struggling to pay mortgages. 400,000 mortgages are in negative equity; that’s 43% of all mortgages. Workers that would like to buy a home are unable to secure mortgage loans due to lack of secure work and savings and the rising prices.
Even a brief look at the housing crisis in Ireland would confirm to anyone the inability of capitalism and the ‘market’ to provide for society’s needs. On one hand, there are massive hardships and pressures on working people and the poor in terms of mortgages and rents, and on the other hand there are 289,000 vacant properties, many of which are owned by the State through NAMA, and the enrichment of millionaire landlords.
The Socialist Party stand for a cap on rents and nationalisation of the large landlords’ property portfolios. The slashing of the rent supplement paid to tenants should be reversed. The vacant NAMA properties should come into local authority ownership and used for housing. The Socialist Party stand for investment in a home building programme as well as refurbishment and renovation of the existing council homes. We stand for an across the board write-down of mortgages on primary residences to the current values to end the mortgage arrears crisis.