Tuesday, 14 May 2019
An Bille um an gCúigiú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (An Ceart chun Teaghaise) 2016: An Dara Céim [Comhaltaí Príobháideacha] - Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]
The people affected by the housing crisis such as those in emergency hubs, or those who fear their landlord will evict them, or those who cannot find rental accommodation they can afford, or those who work but cannot afford anything on the market to purchase or rent and who live at home with their parents, and sometimes with their grandparents, too, are sick of all the talk. They are sick of the Government's abysmal failure to change anything or to present anything other than a situation that continues to get worse and worse. All I can do is echo what Deputies Barry, Ó Broin and others have said, which is to tell people to get onto the streets. We need to do with the issue of housing what was done with that of water charges. We need to terrify the Government and to make it fear politically that it will lose badly. We need to make it shake with fear inside the walls of Leinster House. Unless there is a movement of that scale to terrify the Government, it is clear it has no intention of changing tack and delivering on scale the public and affordable housing on public land that we need, which is at the heart of the crisis. The policy of retreating from the provision of council housing and relying on the private rented sector, developers, cuckoo funds, vulture funds and so on has led us to the disastrous position we are in, and it will not change unless the people force it to. They must punish electorally the Government and the major parties that contributed to the situation but must also use a mass movement of people power that will force the change.
Telling people to get onto the streets at 1 p.m. on Saturday, 18 May is the most important message but there is so much that could be said about so many aspects of the crisis. There are a few myths of Government guff that I wish to bust. One such myth is when the Government states: "The answer to the problem is supply, supply, supply, and we will ramp up supply." It goes on to highlight, for example, all the planning permissions that have been submitted and claims to be on the way to sorting the crisis out. What is actually happening is that applications for planning permission are being submitted to inflate the value of the land holdings of the property speculators who have bought the land. In many cases, they have no intention of building anything at all. I cite as an example the Sentinel building in Sandyford, which has approximately 20 storeys and has been called a work-life pod. It is a new term. It has been designed in order that the developers will not have to allow even 10% of it to be used for social housing. What is a work-life pod? Would anybody like to guess? It is just nonsense. It might be a bedsit but by calling it a "work-something", it is not quite classed as a residency and, therefore, the developers do not have to use 10% of it for social housing. It does not matter because the building is sitting there as a half-built skeleton in any event, towering over an area where people are crying out for affordable housing.
Richard Barrett and his gang, Bartra, in Dún Laoghaire have submitted an application for planning permission for a site which had been granted planning permission for 50 apartments to allow them to build 200 co-sharing units. Co-sharing units are rooms, if one could call them that - boxes would be a more accurate description - of 16 sq. m. with fold-out beds and no kitchens. Approximately 30 or 40 of the co-sharing units will share a kitchen and their occupants will be charged approximately €1,300 for living there. They are the tenements of the future. Alternatively, they will be leased back to the council for use as an emergency hub because the Government will not have delivered the public and affordable housing that is necessary and the housing crisis will get worse. We will end up probably leasing the property from Mr. Barrett for a fortune to house the increasing numbers of homeless people. Although I am sure he will probably not even build the property and is instead merely seeking the planning permission, even if the supply is delivered, the strategic housing development process means he will have bypassed the normal planning process. That is shocking. Even if the property is built, although most of it will not be, none of it will do anything to address the housing crisis or to provide secure, decent, proper, dignified affordable or public housing for the people who need it. All the Government is doing is enriching and facilitating the speculators while the crisis continues to get worse and worse. The people must get onto the streets on Saturday because it is the only way.