We had a packed room for our latest housing meeting in The Mill Theatre on Tuesday, March 19th. Thanks to everyone that attended. I hope that people picked up some new information about the local housing situation and some new ideas about the sort of steps that need to be taken to get us out of the crisis.
At the meeting I delivered a new presentation which was specific to the Dundrum Local Electoral Area, which includes all of Dundrum, Nutgrove, Churchtown, Goatstown and most of Ballinteer. Unfortunately for those of us that call this area home, we are in the absolute eye of the housing hurricane.
House prices across Dublin South are the highest in the country, with the average sale price now heading for €600,000. According to the most recent data from the Rental Tenancies Board rent in the private sector in the Dundrum LEA is now the second highest in the country. Stillorgan is the most expensive, with Glencullen coming in third. This means that the Rathdown constituency has the dubious honour of taking the top three places in the exploitative rent charts. Three bed apartments are now being rented for more than €3,000 per month, with two beds in the region of €2,300 per month.
The total human cost of such extortionate house prices and rents cannot be measured. What we do know is that thousands of people are waiting years for social housing across the DLR council area. Many of these individuals and families are living in overcrowded and / or substandard housing. Nobody knows exactly how many because the council doesn’t bother to record that kind of information.
We also know that thousands of people who don’t quality for social housing are begrudgingly paying these rack-rents and that thousands more adults have been forced to move back in with their parents, often with children of their own in tow.
Almost daily I’m contacted by local people who are living in overcrowded housing or substandard housing or facing eviction from their private rental accommodation. This is not an abstract statistical crisis. It’s a real crisis that is having a devastating effect on the lives of far too many people.
The factors that are driving the housing crisis in the greater Dundrum area are similar, but more extreme, that the factors that are driving it elsewhere. One of key problems is the chronic lack of public housing, which is the only affordable, secure form of housing that exists for low and even middle income families.
In the city of Vienna about two thirds of families rent their homes from their council or other not-for-profit housing bodies. Across the Twenty-Six Counties about on in ten families rent from councils or other not-for-profit housing bodies. In the greater Dundrum area the figure is less than one in twenty.
The severe lack of affordable, secure public housing has been made far worse by the rapid corporate takeover of housing across greater Dundrum and the Rathdown constituency. A handful of foreign-controlled private corporations now own over 2,000 homes in Rathdown, which is the equivalent of about one in sixteen homes of the entire housing stock. All of these corporations operate extremely aggressive rent-pricing strategies, which has driven the entire rental market to the highest level on record.
A chronic shortage of affordable, secure public housing has created the ideal conditions for parasitic corporate landlords who know that people will prioritise paying for shelter above food, heat and clothes, never mind ‘.luxuries’ like holidays or a social life.
None of this has happened by accident. The calculated decisions of successive governments over the last twelve years have created the crisis of today. When faced with the rapid collapse of the property sector in 2007 and the subsequent collapse of the banking sector the political establishment has to choose between protecting the interests of the rich or the interests of the general population. They chose the rich.
Fianna Fail, The Green Party, Fine Gael, Labour and the Shane Ross ‘Independents’ have all played their part in creating an entirely dysfunctional housing sector that is dominated by private developers, private banks and private landlords.
There are other ways to do housing and they start with the state taking on its responsibility to provide housing directly to those who are need. No RAS schemes. No HAP schemes. No tax breaks for developers. No payouts to private landlords. Just lots and lots of high quality not-for-profit public housing that can be rented with full security of tenure at an affordable rate to anybody that needs a home. It’s called UP Housing - Universal Public Housing and it is actually that simple.
I’ve spent the best part of the last four years researching and developing practical, realistic solutions to the housing crisis - solutions that can be applied to my own community and beyond. And many others have been doing the same thing across the country. The solutions are out there, but the political will to implement them does not exist within the establishment political parties or opportunist independents.
In May I’m standing for election in the Dundrum Local Electoral Area to give people a chance to vote for real change, to vote for a dramatically different approach to housing in particular. If you are interested in finding out more about my ideas on housing or any other issue please get in touch.
If you’ve already made your mind up and want to see me elected to the council, please get involved in my election campaign. We need as many people as possible to come on board as soon as they possibly can. Change is possible, but we need to get organised now.