David Murphy/Darby Savage
Thank you for joining me for your weekly edition of Housing Crisis Update where we read the news, so you don’t have to; it’s Thursday the 13th of December. For the podcast version, click here.
Home and Hopeless
We pick up from last week with reactions to an episode of RTÉ Investigates aired on Wednesday which discussed Ireland's housing crisis, the underdevelopment of residential land and the failure of the government to deliver on its "Rebuilding Ireland" programme.
In an interview with Oonagh Smyth, Housing Minister Murphy agreed with the criticism levelled against him. Peter Crawley of the Irish Times observes that Murphy might have been wondering “how the hell Health turned out to be the less toxic portfolio”. Deputy chief executive of housing for Dublin City Council Brendan Kenny says that “the private sector have to [be] the ones to solve the crisis;” Crawley wonders if this speaks to how desperate we have become.
Beyond the Threshold
Housing charity Threshold suggested that one-third of all calls they received last year were from tenants faced with losing their home. A report in the Examiner on Thursday suggested that in light of the figures, that the Government tackle unaffordable rent increases and the fallout from the sale of rented properties as a matter of urgency.
What's the plan?
On Friday RTÉ's Business Editor Will Goodbody identified the main risks to the Irish economy, citing a Central Bank review that identified infrastructure shortages, particularly housing, as presenting a future threat to Ireland’s financial health along with Brexit and currency market volatility.
We kicked off the weekend with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the Late Late Show on Friday to talk Brexit, the HSE and the housing crisis.
On Micheál Martin's comments on Ireland Unfiltered days before, Leo denied there was an “upper-middle class resistance to building local authority houses.” saying “there's a lot of social housing in my constituency and we're building more of it.” However, at the end of 2017 just 809 social housing units had been built in the country for the calendar year, representing just one-third of the target.
Leo stopped short of a promise to solve homelessness, saying “it cannot not be completely eradicated” but that the issue “keeps him awake at night and that he finds it 'offensive' children are in emergency accommodation.
On Saturday The Corkman picked up on the Threshold story, adding a quote from southern regional services manager Edel Conlon that tenants in so-called Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs) in the southern capital had been kicked out of properties that were never sold. Instead the homes were put back on the market for a higher rent than the four per cent cap required by law.
We kicked off the week with Michael D’s first keynote address since winning his second term seven-year term as president. Marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the head of state led with the rights of asylum seekers and climate change, adding that the declaration also provides a right to security of shelter and a home.
Michelle Devane reporting for the Irish Mirror said President Higgins noted that the Convention on the Constitution had recommended a fundamental right to housing, and hoped that discussion would continue.
A bill was produced - the Right to Housing Bill - but was defeated by the Government in the Dáil in September of last year.
An Amárach Research poll commissioned for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights showed that more than four-fifths of those surveyed supported a human right to housing.
The Privileged Two
Eamonn Kelly at Broadsheet returned on Monday to Leo’s performance on the Late Late Show saying that both he and Tubridy were blind to their own privilege, citing Tubridy’s supine interviewing style and recalling the Taoiseach’s comments that people shouldn’t get houses for “nothing”.
Meanwhile in South Kildare an Athy municipal meeting revealed that Housing Assistance Payment or HAP applicants had been turned away from neighbouring counties Laois, Carlow and Offaly; throwing the inter-county HAP scheme into doubt. Paula Campbell reporting for the Leinster Leader noted that councillors had requested the removal of restrictions last summer to applicants that had found suitable housing in other local authority areas.
Miggledy Strikes Again
On Tuesday, Michael D followed up his keynote address the day before by calling for a debate on the housing crisis. Speaking at an event at the Mansion House in Dublin he said that the market had commodified housing, calling for better regulation.
No plans, wouldn't make a difference
Meanwhile, Junior Housing Minister Damien English said that the Government had “no plans” to enshrine a right to housing in law, saying that it would not make much difference. He did say however that “policies are not based on relying on the private sector forever”. According to reporting by Evelyn Ring at breakingnews.ie, Niamh Randall at the Simon Community said “it was good to hear Mr English acknowledge that the private rental sector would not deliver all that was needed”.
Baby vulture, one careful owner
In the Dáil, Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach to bring forward emergency legislation to close a tax loophole which a company holding €1.3 billion of Irish property has been exploiting. Chief executive of PTSB, Jeremy Masding, appeared before the Oireachtas Finance Committee last week where he confirmed the sale of the assets to a vulture fund, the ownership of which is unclear and which had been set up only weeks beforehand. The Taoiseach told Mr Doherty he had watched the exchange and raised the issue with the Minister of Finance. Reporting by Christina Finn at thejournal.ie.
Dubliners under strain
Over at the Irish Times Kitty Holland describes a day visiting services providing free or low-cost food to the poorest Dubliners. She describes a system of charitable giving and volunteering under strain from the weight of demand, with the Capuchins on Bow Street noting their distress at the number of children coming to their day centre for a hot meal.
The inconstant builder
Yesterday it was revealed that - as in 2017 - the Government is on course to miss its social housing build target, achieving less than half of its goal of 5,000 new builds.
Bend it like Brexit
This was against a backdrop of further criticism by opposition parties of the confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fáil, which they renewed with Fine Gael for another year, seemingly without substantive concessions. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou Mc Donald said of Fianna Fáil that they “can’t be in government and opposition at the same time” according to reporting by Elaine Laughlin at breakingnews.ie.
The Fianna Fáil leader said the decision had been “reached reluctantly”, citing “political chaos” in London and a looming Brexit.
Turkeys vote against Christmas
In the Dáil, Solidarity-PBP TD Mick Barry called on TDs who are also landlords not to vote on his party's anti-eviction bill which was debated yesterday evening. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the bill risked undermining the rental sector, despite noble intentions and rejected the call for abstentions.
Gavin O’Callaghan at the Irish Mirror reported on a Neilstown mother who is facing Christmas on the streets after a hotel told her she couldn’t stay for the holidays. South Dublin County Council wouldn’t comment on an individual case but said applicants could receive funding to self-source hotel accommodation on a short-term basis or be accommodated in a family hub.
Elaine Wall has three children and suffers from depression after the murder of her partner Peter Conroy in 2015.
Not for sale
And today the Independent reports on a housing scheme in Cherrywood where none of the homes will be for sale. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council gave the green light last May to asset management firms Hines and APG to go ahead with another of the increasingly popular build-to-rent schemes popping up all over the capital.
Staying with the Indo Paul Melia says scrapping height limits won’t end the housing crisis, saying the issue really only applies in Dublin. He went on to note that brownfield sites could be inherently more expensive and that the uncertainty was causing construction on some new schemes not to go ahead, as developers wait for clarity on the height issue.
That’s your Housing Crisis Update with just 12 days till Christmas. I hope you’ve got somewhere warm to stay.
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