Ireland’s Homeless Crisis, When Party Ideology Trumps Government Duty

A full seven days late, the latest figures from the government show that 7,148 people were in emergency accommodation at the end of December 2016, the highest number of homeless citizens recorded so far. That figure breaks down as 4,643 adults and 2,505 children, and continues the rising trend seen in recent years. Of course, the official statistics do not include people “sleeping rough” (a horrible euphemism) or surviving as short- and long-term guests with relations and friends. The latter group certainly numbers in the thousands as desperate individuals and families make do with spare rooms, couches or the sitting-room floor.

This scandal is taking place while some 198,358 dwellings lie vacant in the country, another record-breaking figure. A significant number of these empty abodes are in the hands of predatory investors, construction companies and unscrupulous landlords, especially in the Dublin region. Keeping the national housing stock at crisis levels is one of the mechanisms by which property prices can be over inflated. A similar artificial bubble to the one which burst so spectacularly – and catastrophically – in the death throes of the Celtic Tiger economy of the early 2000s. Meanwhile rental costs continue to skyrocket, benefiting many of the self same people mentioned above, as one form of extortion feeds off another. Rent controls in designated areas may work in the short-term but there is plenty of evidence that property owners are already circumventing the halfhearted regulations. The price-to-rent ratio in Ireland remains grotesquely out-of-line with European norms, where monthly rental and mortgage costs are far more comparable.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s so-called housing minister, Simon Coveney TD, chooses to waffle and obfuscate his way through the crisis, putting the needs of free market enterprise before the needs of the citizens he supposedly represents. Welcome to the Vulture Republic!

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5 comments

  1. I don’t think the empty dwellings figure is really applicable to the problem. To my knowledge, most of the places where these dwellings are empty are no where near where the need is (I do not really know too much about Dublin, but last I heard, empty places are actually pretty scarce). There are many empty dwellings here where I live, the fact is there are no real opportunities here, and most of the young are simply not going to compete to cut bog or seaweed (Fáiscithe as an Talamh – there was a show by that name some time ago on TG4). It all simply comes down to the fact that the money and the services are in Dublin and the East of the Country, and prices to live there are at a premium (extortion is absolutely correct). Add to it the ever-increasing cost for travel, who can really afford a car between fuel and tax, especially when driving 60+ miles to work? Public transportation is neither reliable, timely, or feasible for regularly commuting over greater distances and is also not exactly cheap (try taking the bus from Doolin to Galway, for example). Many of the homeless are in low-income or no-income situations with needs for services for either themselves or their children that are not available where the available housing is. Aside from better services all around, being close to or in Dublin allows for better chances of getting higher paid employment. Most, despite what the conservative press may utter, are wanting to work. I think it is quite natural that people aspire to be near where the opportunities are better. The problem is there is no real effort for new construction in the areas of need, and just like you state in your article, it is mostly to keep the prices up and the already fat cats in even more profit.

    1. Dude, Poles work in Ireland and then buy property in POLAND not Ireland. Why the hell would anyone take a 500k mortgage in Ireland when it’s possible to do so much cheaper in Poland? I myself can already buy an apartment in Riga outright or take a 5 year mortgage and get something a bit nicer.

      Property prices are ridiculous here. I have no desire to stay in Ireland and take a mortgage during this property bubble, thank you very much. It’s going to burst sooner or later. And if this shit continues I would not be surprised that people start to migrate to the East where it’s actually possible to pay off a mortgage in a human lifetime.

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