On Saturday, 7th April a protest march will take place to highlight the national housing emergency. The protest is organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition which is a coalition of Trade Unions, NGOs and Politicians. The march is supported by the ICTU. The demands of the coalition are clearly outlined below.
- The housing and homelessness situation should be declared an
- An end to economic evictions: No loss of principal residency due to economic distress.
- Regulation of the private rented sector. Security of tenure and rent certainty. Greater enforcement and inspection. Limit rent rises to a link such as the consumer price index. Public led provision of student accommodation. A charter of housing rights for all renters in the private sector (including students).
- A local authority led emergency response to the housing crisis addressing the issue of vacant units, including the use of compulsory purchase orders and the refurbishment of existing units to meet public housing targets.
- Public policy should aim to increase the output of public housing to an annual rate of 10,000 units per year by late 2018/early 2019 at an estimated cost of €1.8 billion per annum. At least three quarters of these must be provided by local authorities.
- Additional capital expenditure of €1,150 million in 2018 on top of 2017’s planned €655 million provided from the fiscal space available for 2018 and additional tax measures such as the fast-tracking of the vacant site levy and by borrowing. Greater flexibility as regards the application of EU fiscal rules for investment in public housing.
- An integrated strategy of well-planned mixed income housing provided by the local authorities on publicly owned land.
- Redirect the billions spent on subsidising private landlords to the provision of public housing while continuing and improving necessary rent assistance.
- The development of a cost rental model as a matter of urgency. Adoption and adaption of NERI’s March 2017 proposals for a European cost rental model.
- Land zoned for housing that is owned by local authorities should be used primarily to provide public housing by local authorities, instead of being made available to private developers.
- Decent pay and working conditions in the construction sector aiming for the use of unionised and direct labour.
- Full expenditure of improved funding for Traveller accommodation.
- Socially inclusive and energy efficient standards for public housing.
- An end now to emergency provision for families in bed and breakfast accommodation and the provision for them of suitable public housing. Improved and expanded hostel accommodation for homeless people on the street.
- Steps taken to inscribe the Right to Housing in the constitution.
The CWU was involved in the formation of the National Homeless and Housing Coalition and indeed, for a long time those meetings were attended by Willie Mooney on behalf the National Executive Council. Unfortunately, as is often the case with such diverse groups, there was some unpleasantness and a number of personal attacks on participants were allowed to continue unchecked by the coalition committee. On that basis, the Union ceased its involvement and has not attended any recent meetings of the broader group. There has also been an amount of disquiet expressed at the involvement in this group of the Labour Party, as many people remember that the homelessness situation worsened when the Labour minister, Alan Kelly, had the portfolio for housing.
Irrespective of those two issues, nobody doubts that we have a national housing emergency which covers a wide range of problems and which seems to get worse on a daily basis. There is massive profit taking being made by private landlords and immense misery being heaped upon families as they are evicted from their homes. The behavior of the financial institutions, supported by the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition is unacceptable but is unlikely to cease unless there is sufficient pressure put on them. The gamechanger in relation to housing in Ireland is the provision of public housing by the state for its citizens. The fact that the coalition government of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael refuses to invest in public housing without the input of the private sector, demonstrates clearly that they are only puppets for big business, landlords and profiteers.
Therefore, you will have an opportunity to show your concern and anger on Saturday and although the housing coalition is far from perfect, it has at least provided an opportunity to ram that message home. Of course, on its own a march achieves nothing, but allied to the Housing Charter issued by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it may be that we can shift the politicians to a position where they look after the citizens they were elected to represent.
Assembly is from the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 at 1:00 p.m.
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