Ireland, 2018, a national housing emergency.
A cross-party motion on housing, which passed through the Dáil on October 4th, has put even more pressure on the government to act on the housing and homelessness crises in Ireland. The motion, which received unanimous support from the opposition, called for the government to declare a national housing emergency; an increase in capital spending on housing; more aggressive measures to bring vacant properties into use; and stricter rent controls.
The first step in solving a problem is recognising there is one. But does declaring a national housing crisis mean anything? It puts an urgent and important title on an urgent and important issue – an issue that has not only existed for years but has been becoming more critical each year. The vote hasn’t bound our decision-makers to any contract or promise. It may, however, corner and push them into making significant, real and long-overdue changes. After all, the criticism isn’t coming from just within the house.
As TDs prepared to vote, the day prior, 16,000 people gathered in Dublin City and marched to Leinster House, as part of the Raise the Roof protest. USI, Sinn Féin, Siptu, and People Before Profit were among those represented with flags and banners, rattling up palpable frustration, impatience, and shame, that the crisis is not only ongoing but drastically deteriorating.
In Ireland, we hear the words ‘housing crisis’ too often. As we watch rent prices continuously rise and rise, we hear stories of people’s lives crumbling under the pressures of debt. For many, the prospect of securing affordable accommodation, particularly in our cities, is rapidly becoming unattainable.
At the Raise the Roof march, one student, among the 6,000 that took part, told STAND News that he fears he has no future in Ireland at all;
“I can’t even see in my future that I’ll be able to move out of my family home, and I’m only 19… No help is being given to students, there’s nothing here for students. It’s sad that you have to see people leave the country.”
In July 2014, there were 3,258 homeless people in Ireland. In the same month of 2018, that figure stood at 9,891. Why are these numbers rising so excessively? Is our approach to this problem the very cause of it? Shouldn’t we be analysing why people are becoming homeless in the first place, tackling the root of the housing crisis?
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.