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Housing and my union dues March 23, 2017

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Housing.

Today I was very happy to see some of my union dues being put to good use beyond my own personal needs or interests. My union is a supporter of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, and the Institute published its proposals for responding to the housing crisis: the establishment of a new state company to commission or undertake a programme of building, acquiring and renting new homes in Ireland. Tenants would be charged rents that reflect the cost of building (and financing the building) of the new homes.

It is a brilliant proposal, and if implemented would achieve a number of outcomes: most obviously, to provide the additional housing that is so badly needed in Ireland, but also to interfere with the highly distorted market in a constructive way by providing a significant volume of rented accommodation at prices that match to cost of providing it (building costs, maintenance costs, repayments on capital advanced, etc.) and therefore provide an economic lever to shift the price of rental housing across the market downward into more reasonable territory. (I think it is that second aspect of driving down excessive prices, rather than the cost of the initial investment, that is more likely to impede the implementation of the proposal.) Finally, it would shift the underlying values in public policy by treating housing as a social good, a right, and the basis of a home, and not merely a market commodity to be traded in the short term for the maximum possible profit.

I’m very happy that some of my dues contributed to funding that work (however tiny a fraction it may have been).


The 79-page working paper on the proposal is here: http://www.nerinstitute.net/download/pdf/irelands_housing_emergency_time_for_a_game_changer.pdf


A sequence of State decisions January 23, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in Housing, Human Rights, Inequality, Ireland, Justice, Travellers.

A pal of mine posted this elsewhere. I think it deserves a wider readership

Spoke with a woman today whose home environment was checked for health and safety concerns.
Her home was taken from her last week because of dangers in the original environment, making her homeless.
Then her social welfare payment was stopped due to no longer been at the registered address.
Then a civil servant suggested she put her child into the fostering system so she could get accommodation.
Then the local services responsible for taking her home locked the doors so she couldn’t make a rehoming appointment.

I mean historically the communities have had issues – but this is really just fucked up.

As a gay man no one expects me to live my life with a woman.
We understand that truth.
We understand that sense of identity.
As a Traveller however there is the expectation to live within the settled structured.
That connection of identity and the need is overridden and cast aside due to expectation.

Many people might not realise it is a privilege to live within their own culturally appropriate structure, as they’ve never had that option denied to them, but really, in this day and age we really could be so much more kind to one another.

70 people made homeless.

Relocation Relocation April 5, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Housing.
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I had to raise an eyebrow at this remark from Olivia Mitchell in the Dáil last week

We blamed everyone for the housing bubble but the State piggybacked on it. We must be careful not to do that again. Much as we might like to get something from builders, when we rezone land, we must be careful to ensure it does not negatively impact on people trying to buy houses.

Who the Mahon Report found

While the evidence would suggest Cllr Mitchell did not solicit the contribution, she nonetheless accepted it in the knowledge of Mr Dunlop’s close association with the project

But that wasn’t the best part. Social Housing was the topic and in this case the increasing shortage of any sort in the capital

In other parts of the country there is no shortage of housing and rents are far more affordable. In that context, it may be time to consider some kind of resettlement programme, even on a temporary basis, until we get to grips with the housing shortage in Dublin. I know that eventually it will dawn on people that if they want housing, they will have to get out of Dublin and there will be a drift to the cities and towns outside Dublin. I also know that resettlement is not for everyone and that family ties and so forth connect people to where they were born, but for those who want it, it can provide not only a housing solution but also access to schools and other facilities because the demand for these is not as great as it is in Dublin.

I do not think the drift out of Dublin should be left to market forces, however. It is time for the Government to get actively involved in a planned programme of resettlement, helping families to relocate. If it is left to people to decide themselves to go, we will get a scatter gun type relocation throughout the country which, from a planning perspective, is not a good idea. It would be better to direct people who elect to move out of Dublin to the gateways and hub towns identified in the national spatial strategy. Although the latter has fallen into disuse, it is better than nothing in terms of relocating people out of Dublin. In such towns, of course, there is a better chance of getting employment. I am not suggesting that relocation is the solution to the entire housing problem, but for those who express an interest, it is worth pursuing. I know there is a voluntary organisation called Rural Resettlement Ireland, but I think it should be something that is much more structured than that.

At the moment, not only are we not helping people to relocate or suggesting they consider it, we are actually putting barriers in their way. For instance, if one is on the housing list in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, one cannot go to Bray and get housing assistance because one is not on the housing list there. I do not think the legislation requires that but that is how the scheme is being implemented. That should be dealt with by letting local authorities know they should be as flexible as possible. It is ridiculous that people who are on a housing list and for whom a housing need has been established cannot go and rent a house in an area that is cheaper and get a lesser subsidy. As I said, relocation is not for everyone but it is a possibility for some.

Relocation could indeed be a option for some but banishment of social housing tenets from Dublin has more than a whiff of social cleansing doesn’t it.

Constitutional Convention February 24, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Health, Housing, Human Rights, Judiciary, Religion.

It would not be correct ot say that the Convention on the Constitution has been radical, but it has wrapped up its work with its most radical recommendation.

In Ireland, economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights are included in the Constitution merely as “directive principles” for the guidance of the Oireachtas. (The exception is the right to a primary education.) The Constitution states that these rights “shall not be cognisable by any Court under any of the provisions of this Constitution”. [An aside: doesn’t the word ‘cognisable’ sound like street slang for ‘recognisable’? The image of Dev getting down with the lads doesn’t seem right. At all.]

The principles listed under this provision are

  • an adequate means of livelihood
  • ownership and control of the material resources distributed to best subserve the common good
  • the operation of free competition not being allowed so todevelop to the common detriment
  • the aim of the control of credit shall be the welfare of the people as a whole
  • there may be established on the land in economic security as many families as practicable
  • the State whall favour and, where necessary, supplement private initiative in industry and commerce
  • private enterprise shall be conducted to ensure reasonable efficiency in the production and distribution of goods and to protect the public against unjust exploitation
  • the State safeguarding with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community
  • ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused

Those of us on the Left would hardly think it radical that any of these would move to legal requirements that can be invoked before the courts, and would not be thrilled to see the status of private industry — already sheltered with property rights — re-inforced by being made something judges must take account of in legal decisions.

An overwhelming majority — 85 percent — of the members of the convention voted in favour of the broad proposition that the Constitution should be amended to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. A smaller majority — 59 percent — recommended that the Constitution be amended by the insertion of a provision that the State shall progressively realise ESC rights, subject to maximum available resources and that this duty is cognisable by the Courts. This was the strongest of three options the Convention considered for strangthening the status of ESC rights in the Constitution.

However, progressive realisation subject to maximum available resources is not a very strong standard.

It also voted on five possible specific new rights to be named in the Constitution:

  • housing
  • social security
  • essential health care
  • rights of people with disabilities
  • linguistic and cultural rights

In each case, it voted overwhelmlingly in favour of each of these — the least popular was linguistic and cultural rights, with 75 percent support.

It also voted for the “rights covered in the International Covenant on ESC Rights” to be named in the Constitution — this received support from 80 percent of the members of the Convention.

I do not expect this recommendation to go far. The idea that citizens could go to the courts to invoke rights on these matters is simply too alien to our governments, politcal and permanent. Indeed, when an alliance of NGOs first met last year to discuss the idea of asking the Convention to consider the issue, they held a seminar at which the political parties sent representatives to give their views. It was disappointing to hear the party representatives say that constituional protection of ESC rights is not something they support. I hope some them reconsider in lgiht of the numbers from Sunday’s vote.

The Collapse of the Home Owning Dream August 16, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Capitalism, Housing.

I put most of what follows up on my own blog yesterday, but in looking at the Irish Times, saw a story discussing the failures of the Irish state in relation to the provision of social housing, and so am posting the original article here, along with addition bits based on the Irish Times article.

The Observer today reports on the end of what was in many ways the most emblematic feature of the Thatcherite programme – home ownership. We know that the Tory decision to sell off huge quantities of public housing in the UK was driven by both ideological and more nakedly party political considerations. Displaying an awareness of the truth of Marx’s theory that it is social existence that determines human consciousness, the Tories aimed to change the consciousness and political inclinations of large sections of the working class by allowing them to buy their homes cheaply. In the words of Norman Tebbitt, they aimed to make them possessors of capital, and thus, to turn them literally into capitalists. This, along with the deliberate de-industrialisation of the country, was part of a plan to destroy the social conditions that had bred the assertive labour movement of the 1970s, and to hand over the keys of the kingdom to finance capital. At a party-political level, as seen most nakedly in Westminster, it was expected that the new homeowners would vote Tory. The consequences of course were deepening inequality and division, and the devastation of the former mining and industrial areas that were left behind. The transfer of property was reliant upon cheap credit. At the same time, the orgy of speculation and spiralling property prices that resulted has now reached the stage where although the cult of home ownership has become firmly embedded in British social and political culture, it is becoming an unreachable dream for growing numbers. As could only ever happen, it has created a new contradiction in economy and society, especially now credit has dried up as a result of the current crisis. A new generation faces a lifetime of renting in a culture that valorises home ownership.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) warns today that the “golden age of home ownership” is coming to an end. In the most expensive parts of the country, lenders are demanding deposits of £40,000 for even the cheapest properties – requiring a level of savings that most renters could only dream of.

The British rental sector, the Observer reports, is in crisis, and demands are growing that the government take action to address the needs of the 3m households in the private rented sector.

Campaigners and experts point to government figures that show 44% of all privately rented homes are classified as “non-decent” – a far higher level than for owner-occupied houses (32%) and social rented homes (26). They also highlight the plight of the “in-betweens” – low-paid workers unlikely to be offered council housing but with little chance of buying a home.

There are other problems as well, with short-term leases with one or two month notice periods creating insecurity, especially for families with children. In the social housing sector, things look like getting worse under the Con-Dem coalition. Along with changes to housing benefit that put up to three quarter of a million people at risk of becoming homeless, Cameron recently announced that he planned to end social housing tenancies for life, and that council tenants would have to move on if their circumstances changed. This is what the big society means. Forcibly removing publicly-provided resources and facilities in order to allow profiteering in a private sector that is incapable of providing what is needed, as the figures for non-decent housing in the private rented sector show.

Not surprisingly, there is a generation gap here.

Estate agency Savills has identified 1976 as a key year dividing the property haves and the have-nots. For those born before that year, there have been far more chances to get on to the housing ladder and profit from it. For the younger generation, it is a different story. Many have not made it on to the ladder, and many of those who succeeded bought at the peak of the market and risk being plunged into negative equity.

So what might be the answer?

Sarah Webb, chief executive of the CIH, says the time has come to move away from the notion of “right to buy” and “wrong to rent” and to focus on how to make renting a positive choice. In essence, campaigners want to see a cultural shift on a par with the one Thatcher began in 1980, this time in favour of promoting renting

It seems sensible that there is going to have to be a change in culture, in which renting becomes more normalised. Not only because of the problem of affordability, but also because of the environmental sustainability issues surrounding ever-increasing numbers of houses being built. Those who have bought in flood plains and who are getting flooded every couple of years would probably agree, but there are also issues surrounding demands on the sewage system, transport links etc. An integrated approach to housing and urban planning is definitely needed, in which the issue of renting is part of a broader plan. Of prime importance must be the provision of social housing built by the state. The property speculators and the private sector have made more than enough out of the public sector, and out of the public. We have seen the damage that has been wrought economically and environmentally by handing over control to the market. If the government takes responsibility for providing affordable quality social housing, then we will have gone some way to solving the problems caused by the collapse of the Thatcherite dream. And at an ideological level, with the state demonstrating its power to transform the lives of citizens for the better, we may have gone some way to reversing the damage done to social consciousness as well.

ADDS: And right on cue, comes a call by Michael D. Higgins for John Gormley to abandon the state’s leasing scheme for local authority housing. In the north, Margaret Ritchie bought some privately-built houses cheaply to use for social housing. Some complained that this was bailing the builders out, but given the restrictions on the Housing Executive building houses, it seemed to me, and still does, to have been a good idea on her part. It’s certainly a lot better than what has been occurring in the south. In what Higgins rightly calls an “outrageous scam”, most local authorities have been leasing privately-built housing at a total cost of around 20 million Euro a year. This year, the plan is to lease 8 or 9,000 properties, for an average of 20 years. As Higgins points out, this means that

At the end of the arrangement ownership of the properties will be vested, not in the residents, not in the local council, not with the State, but with the developer.
The developer wins by having a guaranteed income from an asset that currently is lying dormant, and then wins again by being able to sell off or rent out the housing unit at the end of the deal.
Now it is being imposed by the Government’s cutting of housing capital allocation and their refusal of loan approval to local authorities. This madness must be stopped and I am calling on Minister Gormley to intervene.

That’s right. The developer will be rescued from having a house he can’t sell, get 20 years’ of rent from public funds, and then have the house handed back to him to sell at whatever the market value is then. The government claims there is the possibility of a buy-out clause, although it’s unclear who will have the right to buy – the tenant or the state. And that is only a possibility. Just when you thought the government couldn’t sink any lower in its desire to rescue its financial backers and masters, you are reminded that there are no depths that will not be plumbed to bail out the economic elite at the expense of the working class. Given that there are 300,000 empty homes in the state, and that many of the bad debts taken by NAMA have granted effective ownership of many of these to the state via the banks, the naked class reality of government behaviour at the local and central level couldn’t be any clearer. Only a government of the left can offer a real alternative to the corruption and inequality offered by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Elsewhere today March 17, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Class, Economics, Housing, Human Rights, Ireland, Justice, Political Philosophy.

HumanRightsInIreland, a blog run by Irish academic lawyers, has a series of posts today on the theme (to my ear, hi falutin) of ‘Human Rights Lexicon’. However, don’t let that put you off. I recommend the post by Illan Rua Wall on the right to housing in a post-crash Ireland. It gives some thoughts that are new to me on how we might approach economic injustices through the legal concept of human rights. (Whether it will ever get legs is another story.)

To begin the task of shifting the neo-liberal imagination, I suggest the crime of squatting (for it is a criminal offence in Ireland). Squatting is to take direct action, not against this or that policy of the government, but against trite neo-liberal abstraction and injustice. By placing people, real lived experience, in these ‘toxic’ assets, the reality of the situation is manifested in a material sense. Ireland is increasingly a country which is divided between the rich within their neat comfortable zones, and the poor who are increasingly subjects of toil, insult, degradation and burden. It is not alone in this, but that is not the issue. What if the 43,000 families currently waiting for social housing, broke into the empty houses and apartments all over the country, now in state (or at least NAMA) ownership? I suggest this would at once be an a-legal vindication of their economic rights, but it would also present an attempt to rupture the neo-liberal ideological hold on the country.

‘Housing for Need not Greed; Tenants First Action Plan for Sustaining Homes and Communities’ April 25, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Campaigns, Housing.

‘Housing for Need not Greed;

Tenants First Action Plan for Sustaining Homes and Communities’


Monday May 11th (10am to 1pm)

Liberty Hall (SIPTU buildings), Dublin 1

10am: Outline of policy document for the regeneration of, and building and sustaining communities and homes. Speaker: Brian Dillon (Nexus and Tenants’ First)

10.30am: Social housing and communities: Anne Speed, (Head of Equality and Campaigning, SIPTU)

10.45am: Fr. Pat Cogan (Managing Director, Respond! Voluntary Housing Association)

11am: Action for local communities and community organisations on new policy and cut-backs in community services. John Bissett (author of Regeneration: Public Good or Private Profit) & Rory Hearne (Regeneration Worker Dolphin House)

11.30-1pm Open discussion and summary

Read the Tenants First policy document see: www.stmichaelsestate.ie or www.dicp.ie For more information contact: tenantsfirst365@yahoo.ie or C/O: Dublin Inner City Partnership, 16-17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7, 01 8721321. Tenants First is a network that brings together people who are working on and involved in public housing issues in their local communities. It is made up of representatives from local authority tenants associations and anti-poverty groups working locally with tenants.

Thanks to John O’Neill of the ISN for forwarding this.


Posted by WorldbyStorm in Campaigns, Housing.
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Protest outside City Hall, Parliament Street, Dublin 2 on Monday 6-7pm

As regeneration projects grind to a halt in Dublin, over 5,000 families are being left around the city living in run down and often unsafe conditions – uncertain about their future.

Tenants First – an organisation that promotes the voice of tenants in regeneration area – is organising a protest on the eve of the budget to make sure that these families and individuals are not forgotten.

Please come and support the residents of Ballymun, St Michaels Estate, O’Devaney Gardens, Dominick Street, Croke Villas, St Theresa’s Gardens, Dolphin House and all other areas of regeneration.


If you need further information please contact Emma on 01 883 2159

Please circulate this information

[Thanks to John O’Neill for forwarding this information]

Social segregation supported by the Irish state? Why yes. That’ll do nicely, thanks. September 19, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Housing, Social Policy, Society.

There can be little more loathsome in domestic news than that in the Irish Times noted by Frank McDonald. He writes that:

DUBLIN CITY Council’s contract for the failed public-private partnership project to redevelop O’Devaney Gardens, near Phoenix Park, envisaged separate creches for the private and social housing that would be built on the estate.

Now remember, this was a project initiated by Dublin City Council, not by private developers – not that the latter case would have been satisfactory. There is some suggestion in the report by McDonald that this was due to pressure from the local community:

One of the architects who had been involved in tendering for the project told The Irish Times he was “quite taken aback” by this specification because it clearly indicated that children would be socially segregated at an early age.

“It would be a form of apartheid,” he said. “When we raised this with city council housing officials, we were told that it was being done at the behest of the local community.”

It would be interesting to have this latter point parsed out. Because the next statement is that:

Tenants of the estate were involved in drawing up the development brief.

The opacity in the report means that it is unclear as to whether these were pre-existing tenants in private or City Council housing (although later in the report it appears to be the former). In either eventuality such a proposal would be wrong, and doubly so that the City Council would accede to it.

That too is unclear since:

A spokesman for the council said there was “no substance” to suggestions of social segregation in the project as “no detail was worked up with regard to the provision of a private creche as such”.

Although note the use of the term ‘private creche’ which might cover a multitude.

Intriguingly one of those who went to tender for the development but failed argued that:

Corcoran Jennison, a Boston-based property firm that tendered for the PPP before it was awarded to a consortium led by developer Bernard McNamara, said it proposed integrating the creches under a single arrangement.

“This was one of the simplest and most effective strategies for successfully integrating families of all incomes and racial backgrounds. It was also one of the most economical,” Corcoran Jennison said in a critique of the council’s housing design guidelines.

Indeed. Basic good sense some might argue.

A spokesman for the company, which developed and still manages the Harbour Point housing estate in Boston, said it was at a loss to understand why council officials also insisted on separate blocks for social housing tenants.

“They are opposed to the alternative of mixing social housing and private sector residents and use the term ‘pepper potting’ to describe this approach. They will have none of it, apparently on the basis that middle-class residents wouldn’t accept it.”

What is intriguing is that in the Boston development there would appear to be a greater tolerance than in Dublin for ‘pepper potting’. On an anecdotal level this doesn’t surprise me. The over-developed sense of ‘other’ that is engendered in the Irish middle class can be a sight to behold – although let’s not get too misty eyed about the Irish working class which can also demonstrate similar tendencies. And let’s also note that – as any with experience of same will know – the creche system is ripe for this sort of social distortion.

Already we see a society where social divisions are artificially exacerbated by our education and health systems. That this may be extended to childcare in the manner proposed in this article is simply unconscionable, and that is to put to one side the developing iniquities in child care in terms of barriers to access through costs.

For more on creches and the social context consider this and this and this.

Meanwhile on a related/unrelated issue, what are we to make of the following?

Interesting questions asked in the Irish Times letters page yeserday. Following on from the interview on Wednesday with ‘affable’ ‘genial’ Minster of Education Batt “owner of the worst greyhound in Ireland” O’Keefe we learn that he believes that…

On fee-paying schools : “If I was to withdraw State funding from fee-paying schools, that would have a catastrophic effect. The issue is not under examination.”

Er… come again. Why? If they truly are ‘private’ schools then why on earth should the state pick up the tab? And if it has to why not extend this ‘funding’ to other private entities such as golf courses, yacht clubs or the Worldbystorm Social Foundation.

And as Louis O’Flaherty, IIRC one time President of the TUI, noted, Would the Minister care to tell us if the matter has been examined and rejected and, if so, what were the reasons for its rejection? If it hasn’t been examined, how does he know a withdrawal of State funding would have a catastrophic effect?

While Padraic Kavanagh noted that:

It’s amazing that not even a 3 per cent funding cut is possible for private schools, yet a 3 per cent cut to the School Completion Programme (which is aimed at the most disadvantaged children) is no problem at all. Maybe he should ask himself his own question: “Why would we the taxpayer be funding the children of people who could well afford to pay [for their exclusive schools] themselves?”

It’s also worth bearing in mind that at least the universities are open to all, whereas private schools are only open to those who can afford them.

But surely this is indicative of a political, and societal, passivity to actually tackle embedded areas of privilege. That or a craven inability to actual reach towards some measure of social equity in education, or as we’ve seen above in childcare.

And remember, these are the folks who are talking about bringing a referendum on children to you sometime soon. Words. Just words.

Affordable housing and the Irish Times… a new and unusual view… August 5, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Housing.

Briefly, from a piece in Friday’s Irish Times…

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS in the property market raise some interesting questions about the Affordable Housing Scheme, which provides discounted homes to lower-income buyers.


For example, is the Affordable Homes Partnership’s (AHP) latest strategy of snapping up hundreds of houses and apartments on the open market simply bailing out builders desperate to offload a glut of unsold stock?

Fair point. No reason for the state to subsidise, yet further, the builders after their golden decade or two. But wait…

However, over the last few months the AHP, which co-ordinates and promotes the delivery of affordable homes, has entered into agreements with developers who are prepared to provide discounted houses or apartments for sale to eligible affordable home purchasers. So far the purchase of several hundred properties has been negotiated in locations such as Leixlip, Celbridge and Santry, and the target for the year is in the region of 600 properties.


AHP chief executive John O’Connor is quick to reject the suggestion that builders are jumping on this as an opportunity to shift substandard or undesirable properties. “We look to purchase in a development where there is some level of sales happening,” he says. “We wouldn’t want to be in a development where the only sales happening are affordable housing sales.” He adds that a thorough vetting process is carried out. Each property is inspected by an architect, and the AHP assesses its quality and location.

And it continues:

But with house prices on a downward spiral, O’Connor accepts that the gap between discounted affordable housing and open market prices is narrowing in some cases. So is the concept of affordable housing still relevant?

After all, you may pay more for a property on the open market, but you have none of the restrictions that come with affordable housing. Buyers of an affordable home must live in the property and if they sell within 20 years a clawback must be paid to the local authority, based on the percentage discount received when buying the home. Therefore some people may be better off avoiding the affordable housing route altogether.

Yes. Indeed. The key issue of affordability, so central to “affordable housing” appears to have escaped the correspondent. And a – no doubt at this stage of his interview – puzzled John O’Connor accepted that:

“If someone can afford to purchase on the open market, I’d advise them to take that route,”

But he also noted the blindingly obvious.

…he insists that the need for affordable housing remains: “Even with the [ property] price reduction, a lot of people still can’t afford to buy on the open market.”

A lot he says. Or perhaps somewhere between ‘many’ and ‘most’.
And curiously the article itself supports his contention as when it notes:

However, the most common gripes about affordable housing are the oversubscribed waiting lists. “When I came on to Cork City Council initially in 2004, the affordable housing list at that time was in three figures,” says Lynch. “It’s now gone into four figures.”

And that:

The situation is even more extreme in the capital. Between the four Dublin districts, there are about 13,000 applicants on waiting lists (although some applicants put their name down with several authorities).

Not only, but also:

Last year, 3,500 affordable homes were sold, and the AHP wants to increase this to 5,000 a year. O’Connor says that the waiting time is high if you’re holding out for a prime property in a highly desirable area, but those who are flexible and keep their options open can expect a waiting period of a 18 months to two years.

Two years says the head of the AHP. Perhaps, after all, for a vast number of people, say taking the Dublin area alone 13,000 (and let’s be serious, a lot of people don’t sign up to it despite wanting to because a waiting period of ’18 months to two years’ is actually a rather optimistic reading of the situation) the ‘the concept of affordable housing still relevant’.

The curiosity of this is that if someone, say a journalist writing about the issue of housing and affordability, had looked at the Irish Times from the previous day they would have read that:

THE AVERAGE cost of a new house was just over 3 per cent lower in the first three months of this year than in the same period last year, according to new figures from the Department of the Environment.

And that:

Prices of second-hand houses suffered a sharper fall of 5.4 per cent, but the greatest decline was in the price of second-hand houses in Dublin which were 10.4 per cent lower in the first quarter of the year than in the same period of 2007.

Now, I’m no genius when it comes to maths. But I don’t really think that either a 3% or 10.4% drop in house prices in Dublin (and we can presume that in other parts of the country the falls are reasonably proportionate) is suddenly going to ease up affordability of these dwellings (great word) for people who would see the affordable housing schemes as the way forward. Indeed if we look at the figures in the article we see that:

Shammy Khan, head of mortgages at EBS, says that the typical price discount that their affordable homes customers receive from their local authority is about 32 per cent. For example, a property worth €400,000 on the open market might be made available to an affordable home buyer at a purchase price of just €272,000.

So, how long is it going to take even if 10% drops in the price of houses on the ‘open’ market continue unabated for the price to equalise with those properties available on the affordable schemes. Don’t hold your breath is my advice.

Or as a Labour spokesman suggested in the same article:

Although property prices have fallen in the last 12 months, in Dublin and Cork they are still “way, way off” what would be considered reasonably affordable. As long as house prices remain higher than four or five times the average industrial wage, there will be a role for affordable housing, he says.

And let’s not even get into the issue of how the affordable housing schemes are merely the tip of an iceberg that represents many tens of thousands of people who can’t access them at all due to significantly lower wages again. Or that such schemes are, and this has been dealt with previously, far from immune to criticism. A society where housing is, through the media, reified but one where the state takes an essentially hands-off approach is one where the term hypocrisy seems applicable. The idea that such limited measures as are available are somehow not ‘relevant’, when they in themselves barely scratch the surface of the problem, is simply willfully counterintuitive.

You’ve got to wonder about the IT. You really do.

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