Issue 52

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By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

One thing that the political parties and a broad range of academics, housing associations, voluntary bodies and wider civic society agree on in the Republic of Ireland is that there is a housing crisis. There is a difference of opinions on what the solution should be.

Our latest edition of VIEW concentrates on looking at social/public housing issues and gathers an extensive range of views on the present state of it and poses the question – does the State need to embark on a huge public housing building programme to effectively tackle the dire situation which thousands of people find themselves living in?

I am somewhat disappointed though, that despite numerous attempts, we were unable to get the views of the present housing minister Eoghan Murphy. The press office team of the Fine Gael politician informed me that “that the Minister would not be available during either April or May” for an interview.

Dublin needs an additional 80,000 housing units “as soon as possible” if rents are to be stabilised, but the construction industry is providing only about half of that number, according to Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons. His views were reported in a recent Irish Times editorial (May 14, 2019).

The editorial’s final paragraph stated – “Powers granted to the Residential Tenancies Board will now allow the agency to defend the interests of tenants and impose heavy penalties on those landlords who break the law to circumvent rent restrictions. New and refurbished apartment complexes will also be covered by the legislation. As things stand, the best that can be hoped for is that private rents will moderate and housing output will increase. To encourage those developments, social housing must be given a higher priority. Otherwise, Ireland will remain a cold place for
young children and elderly citizens, amongst others.”

Amidst the gloom was one positive development. It was the visit of the Vienna Model Housing exhibition to Dublin recently. The Austrian capital is presently celebrating 100 years of public housing on a mass scale. I was so impressed by what I learnt that I visited Vienna to see at first hand the city’s public housing. My report is on pages eight and nine. The decision by the Housing Agency and Dublin City Council, to support the exhibition has to be warmly applauded. (See pages six and seven.)

The team at VIEWdigital hope you enjoy and are stimulated by this issue. We want to extend our thanks to the Housing Agency, guest editor Eddie Lewis and Paddy Gray, Emeritus Professor at Ulster University for their invaluable support.

The final words on social/public housing should go to homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry (his interview is on pages 12. and 13). “It has been a housing crisis for years. I would say that it’s out of control now. I think that coming down the line is a catastrophe.” Will his warning be heeded? Time will tell. Meanwhile, the numbers of those in housing need continue to rise.

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