Anti-Austerity Alliance TD published her Minority Report on the results of the Housing Committee. This was after the ‘official’ report of the housing committee did not go far enough in the measures which it suggested to tackle the housing crisis.
The Minority Report can be read here
Launching the report Ruth Coppinger TD said “”As a campaigning TD, I daily interact with people being made homeless, facing eviction or living in horrifically stressed overcrowding. The housing crisis is the most pressing issue facing this country and the human suffering it causes has been ignored by government.
While some Recommendations of the Committee Report are very welcome, overall, it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough in its targets for social and affordable home-building. It will not eliminate the misery of the longest housing lists in our state’s history.
“It doesn’t locate the roots of the problem in the private market itself or even mention the fact that private developers are currently hoarding land and housing, waiting for prices to rise further on the backs of suffering families.
“Most importantly, it doesn’t identify the means by which a housing programme can be funded. By opting not to breach the EU fiscal rules – which effectively prevent large-scale public spending – and in clinging to an impossible off-balance sheet model, homes will not be provided at the scale and speed needed. The houses will be more expensive to build than if built directly by councils. And they will charge higher rents for tenants than current social housing.
“It was disappointing that the target on Social Housing was watered down in the final Committee session. An original proposal “that local authorities return to direct building of social housing and that 50,000 new social housing units would be built up to 2020” was amended to: “Increase the social housing stock of both local authorities and approved housing bodies by at least 50,000 … through a programme of acquisition, refurbishment and new build”. This would only bring public housing annually to just over the 2007 level – hardly reflective of an emergency.
“Considering there are up to 140,000 households waiting for a council house, at the Committee’s rate, it would take 15 years to clear the existing list. Nothing would be provided for those who would join the list during that period, nor for the tens of thousands more trapped in the private
rented sector because their wages are too high to qualify for social housing. The Committee refused to increase the income eligibility for public housing.
“The most obvious gap is where will the money come from? The Committee opted not to clearly call for the government to breach EU rules if that is what’s necessary to resolve our housing emergency. These rules outlaw borrowing for capital investment and limit how much of our own money we can spend. For instance, even though it is savings, we are forbidden from spending €5.4 billion in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) on social housing under these rules! We are also barred from using NAMA’s €2.4billion cash reserves. Both of these funds would resolve much of the housing crisis.
“The Committee voted down a proposal to increase tax on big business and the wealthy to fund a housing programme, which is allowable in the EU rules. In fact, the inclination is still to give tax breaks to developers.
“Neither does the Report grapple with the major issue of the day – rocketing rents. It’s second major recommendation is to introduce very limited rent certainty, linked to inflation – but only for existing tenancies. On its own, this reform could give landlords an incentive to evict tenants and jack up the rent. Rents would still constantly increase without controls on new rental properties. But the Committee refused to go further with real rent controls to actually cut rent levels and make them affordable.
“Beyond some welcome reforms, the Report is missing most of what’s needed to really solve the housing crisis and includes at least one important recommendation that would make matters worse.
“The Committee’s proposal for a new model of so-called ‘public housing’ would actually mean handing over valuable public land to developers and allowing them build mainly private houses for profit. The only condition would be they hand over a much smaller percentage of social housing and supposedly ‘affordable’ or ‘cost’ rental housing. The model cited is Dublin City Council’s Land Initiative, which will deliver a maximum of 30% social housing. If this were adopted nationally, almost half a million houses would have to be built just to clear the existing housing list of 140,000 households.
“The mantra of officials and right wing politicians is ‘avoid the mistakes of the past’ and ‘not build any more Ballymuns’. Apparently, any more than 30% social housing will automatically turn into a ghetto, so the solution is for council tenants to live in ‘mixed tenure’ estates, where their neighbour’s mortgages will apparently have some sort of civilising effect on them!
“On the one hand, this is pure snobbery and an insult to the millions of people who grew up on council estates before the system was undermined by such severe cutbacks that, to have any hope of getting a house, you either have to be homeless or waiting many years.
“On the other, mixed tenure ideology has an underlying economic rationale, connected to the Committee’s refusal to consider breaking the EU rules or raising additional taxes from big business and the wealthy.
“Since all new housing investments must be classed by EUROSTAT as ‘off-balance’ sheet, they can only happen if the state’s investment is part of a commercial project that generates a profit for private investors. That’s the real, economic reason the new model of so-called ‘public housing’ will only have a maximum of 30% social housing. Otherwise private investors wouldn’t make a big enough return. This just so happens to tally with the interests of landowners and developers – the same class who have dominated this state since its foundation and blew up the bubble that caused the housing crash in the first place.
“Notwithstanding this, no one has been able to come up with a workable off-balance sheet model for housing that would abide by the EU rules. So there’s no guarantee even an ultra-modest level of co-financing with private investors, that ends up being a rip-off for the taxpayer, will make it past the neoliberal hawks in Brussels.
“As this Minority, left, Report argues it is the market which has caused the crisis. Housing should not be for speculation. We have the wealth and resources to provide affordable homes for all. But it’s clear the neoliberal model of capitalism won’t allow us to provide them. We need a left government that will not accept that philosophy but will demand what is necessary to give people affordable and secure accommodation in properly planned communities.”