“A housing bubble. Not enough supply. Not enough credit. We hear so much about the housing market, but for the majority of us the reality is an ongoing housing crisis. At the heart of this crisis is the government’s failure to create a housing policy that guarantees everyone’s access to a home. The market-based policies of debt-fuelled home ownership have not only failed – they have undermined the right to housing for hundreds of thousands across Ireland.”
Housing Action Now came together for the European Day of Action for the Right to Housing and the City back in October. Since then they’ve organised a number of events and have been working away quietly on their manifesto.
In the mean time, the housing crisis has dramatically intensified. The crisis in the mortgage sector finally materialized in greatly increased need for private rented housing which sent rent sky rocketing and families into homelessness. Meanwhile, the number of people in mortgage arrears continues to increase and government policy of not providing social housing persists.
The question, of course, is what can be done about all this. Groups like Housing Action (not to be confused with Housing Action Now), which is led by families who have faced homelessness, have been organising lots of demonstrations of late. One such demo was outside city hall as the newly elected Councillors chose the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The left wing nature of the new council following the success of Sinn Fein and the left alliances has raised hopes that action on housing may follow. Meanwhile, a forthcoming cabinet re-shuffle may see responsibility for housing removed from the woeful duo of Phil Hogan and Jan O’Sullivan (Minster for the Environment and Junior Minister for Housing, respectively).
The missing piece of the puzzle, as ever, seems to be effective, sustained grassroots organising of the sort which can genuinely force the hand of the government. The type of action which is required is radical and conflicts with the government’s economic growth strategy (which involves reinflating real estate prices to support the banks and credit flowing once again). Any change will be hard won.