Having a roof over your head is the most basic of fundamental human rights and every human being, adult and child, deserves to live in a safe and secure home.
Many people are now coming to realise that the line that separates people from having a home and not having a home is becoming ever thinner.
The reasons for homelessness are many and complex and we can see the most desperate of situations before us every day with increasing number of rough sleepers caught at the coalface of the housing crisis.
There are now almost 10,000 people registered as homeless in Ireland. That figure is made up of over 1,500 families (increasing at the rate of up to 100 families per month) and including more than 3,200 children who have no home to go to.
Despite the ambitions and promises in the Government housing plan Rebuilding Ireland, these numbers are growing month on month. The figures count the number of people depending on state-funded emergency accommodation and do not include the many thousands of others living in housing distress or in overcrowded and unsuitable conditions.
The housing crisis now affects people from all walks of life. Good housing means good health. It’s a no-brainer.
There are 800,000 people currently living in private rented accommodation. Some of these rely on housing assistance payments (HAPs). However, there are many renting in the private sector who cannot afford to buy their own home. This is because they either cannot get a mortgage or cannot afford to buy on their income.
Rents across the country continue to rise at unsustainable rates. Despite the introduction of ‘rent pressure zones’, intended to cap rent increases at 4%, rents continue to rise. People who can’t pay are being forced out of their homes into homelessness as their rents continue to rise beyond affordability.
People who are having their homes repossessed because they had to pay inflated mortgage prices for their homes or because they lost their jobs during the recession are also being forced into homelessness.
Young people cannot move out of the family home to start their life and whole sections of society are now in the position where they will never be able to afford to buy a home of their own. It is a basic home truth that ensuring homes for all is a fundamental human rights’ and social justice issue.
What is becoming an all too common feature is the lack of local authority home inspectors. There’s plenty of evidence across the country that the Housing Assistance Payment is being used to pay for substandard accommodation. When tenants complain and secure an inspection an improvement notice on basic safety issues like gas, heating and electricity standards usually follows and subsequently results in eviction under the guise of the landlord selling the property. This is unacceptable.
Doing the right thing, in a time of crisis requires flexibility and courage.
This national emergency requires all parties, including Government agencies, NGO’s, the Trade Union movement, the Construction Industry Federation, the Credit Union movement, local Government and the political establishment to work together and for no contributor or suggestion to be excluded.
The solution to the crisis was a feature in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s with the construction of affordable housing facilitated through local authority loans and in parallel the construction of social homes.
There has never been as much wealth in the hands of so few in our nation.
Every day this year private landlords will be given €2 million of taxpayers’ money to deliver social housing. This is a flawed and failing ideology. It’s time for a change in direction.
That is why the National Homelessness and Housing Coalition is growing in numbers and support every day. This is the largest grouping of organisations to ever come together to join forces to demand serious political action on the housing crisis.
The demands of the Coalition are clear and simple and centred around a move away from the privatisation of housing, away from the notion that a house is a commodity to be traded for profit but a home to fulfil a basic need and a human right. The Coalition focuses on the provision of public housing, security of tenure, the prevention of evictions to nowhere and other long-term solutions.
It is only through a radical change in housing policy that meaningful and sustainable solutions to the housing crisis can be found. And it is only through joining forces around the housing crisis that we can achieve the necessary change.