Is this what we’ve come to? The Dublin City Council Affordable Housing Lottery. November 30, 2006Posted by WorldbyStorm in Housing, Irish Politics, Social Policy.
Wednesday has an interesting and informative post on the Affordable Housing Scheme promoted by Dublin City Council which points up the absurdities of the current situation.
As it happened I was in the office of a friend of mine yesterday and she had a form for the Affordable Housing lottery. Although I knew of the lottery I hadn’t appreciated what it meant in practice. Well I was soon disabused of that lack of knowledge.
She had the forms, statements validating salary and assorted legalistic stuff. And she was genuinely excited about the prospect of entering it. The brochure issued by the Council was impressively printed, full colour photographs of our current slightly fussy modernist apartment blocks from a wide variety of locations across Dublin city. Yet the telling aspect was the quantities available as against those entering the lottery. 800 here for 24 apartments there, 900 there for 16 apartments here. These aren’t great odds, in fact they’re terrible. Effectively we can expect approximately one in every 56 or so applicants to be successful.
Now, I know rationally that this may well be a means of doing this, given the limited supply, but really can there be anything more irritating to those engaged in this process than a lottery? Is that what they mean when they say we’re all consumers and customers now? Where does it end? Scratch cards from newsagents?
I purchased my house through the Shared Ownership Scheme in 1999. It so happened the salaries at chez WorldbyStorm were sufficiently impoverished to permit acceptance to the scheme. Despite the hassle subsequently with electrics, plastering, carpets etc it exists, and I readily appreciate the good fortune in that.
Shared Ownership was no picnic. In fact it was an unbelievably depressing process to engage in with no certainty of success at any point along the way. But psychologically wearing as it was, the prospect of success was there – I’d guess that at least 50% of those who engaged in the process finally purchased properties (although I’d be interested to see statistics on this). In the Affordable Housing proces one is hobbled from the beginning. And as Wednesday points out, the real problem is the supply side. Simply put there aren’t enough properties available. Even a 20% allocation for social and affordable properties strikes me as unlikely to make a real bite in the problem – and short of significant government intervention that simply isn’t going to happen.
So what do we do? As someone on the left I find the solution difficult to envision – so I’ll suggest a raft of them. A greater set aside – well to my mind yes, that’s a start. But also perhaps a reconsideration of the role of the state and private sector in this area. I’m not antagonistic to a role for the private sector in this area – but part of the problem appears to be that the private sector dominates the nature of the debate and the production process. This seems to me to be a case where regulation is necessary – and perhaps the adjustment of social policy back towards production for the state to be purchased by incoming tenants. I’m entirely comfortable with the Council being my mortgage provider. Indeed I prefer it that way for my own ideological reasons.
On a slight tangent, I’m not too worried about the nature of ownership, whether it is communal or individual, within associations or not. But I think actual ownership is crucial to engender a positive and – dare I say – responsible approach to properties particularly those facilitated by the state. And that is something the left should, and perhaps is, assimilating.
And also as Wednesday suggests the nature of accommodations should be looked at, but I’d put it slightly differently. Does it make sense to assume that singletons will remain single? Or family sizes will be indeterminately restricted to couples? Or build units with one-bedroom accommodation knowing that the market is more broad based than that? And incidentally, lest the market driven aspect of this be dragged in, I spent five years working for a group of companies that provided amongst other things electrical fittings and lighting to the construction sector. Having trooped through private apartment being built across Dublin in the late 1990s one of the most striking aspects of their construction was the remarkable lack of differentiation between supposedly ‘luxury’ and supposedly ‘standard’ apartments in term of size, internal layout and so on. An interesting market which promotes a grim homogeneity of product and then lauds minor difference as ‘luxury’. The reality is that other than the high end of the market these products are far too similar and far too limited and inflexible.
On a broader point one of the more interesting aspects of this is whether the nature of urban living in Ireland will shift towards the European model of high density accommodation rather than estate living. So far there’s precious little evidence of the former and rather too much of the latter.
But as to the present am I alone in finding the concept of a lottery somehow a ‘dumbing-down’ of the process and an insult to both the intelligence and entirely reasonable expectations of those who seek a place of their own in this city?