Low Cost Housing Needed

Dublin property boom for sale2

A new report shows a rise in rental prices is hurting tenants on rent supplement and has the potential to lead to increased homelessness and overcrowding.

The report, by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), highlights a number of issues that are fuelling the current housing crisis, such as the lack of supply by local authorities and the cost of appropriating additional housing.

In terms of social housing, the report states that if current conditions continue it could start to affect not just the finances, but the health and safety of low-income tenants who are struggling to survive.

“For these people, and therefore for us, this is a housing crisis,” the report says. “To fund social-housing provision on the scale needed will require the creation of public-housing institutions capable of attracting finance without adding to the national debt.”

The report comes on the back of a number of worrying reports and statistics that point to a disquieting trend within the Dublin rental market. The first came in May, with the publication of figures by property website Daft.ie showing the average cost of renting a property in Dublin City has increased by a staggering 14% from the same period last year (representing an average monthly rent of €1,289). The report claims a robust demand for accommodation and lack of supply has pushed up rental prices.

Back in April, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said that up to 500 families are now living in hotels, as local authorities struggle to quell a ballooning rental waiting list, which now stands at about 96,000, according to national statistics provided by the Government.

“The Council needs to address the number of vacant units in social housing which are out there at present,” says Fianna Fáil Cllr Frank Kennedy, speaking to NewsFour. “The scale of the crisis is such that it can’t, in my view, be resolved without more units constructed.” Cllr Kennedy also says that he has met a number of families on the ground whose stories would “break your heart”, like that of a local woman who shares her apartment with seven others, and of Pauline Delany, who has been living in what she calls unsuitable accommodation in Sandymount.

“I don’t want to live here anymore,” Pauline tells NewsFour.

“It’s not suitable, it’s a half of a house, it’s damp and there’s no heating in it and it’s just falling down.” With only two bedrooms, in terms of size the house is unsuitable.

Although most of Pauline’s family have since moved out, having them over for visits or sleepovers is practically impossible due to the size of the property.

Pauline’s name has been on the Dublin City Council waiting list for the past eight years but she claims she has been practically stonewalled by the Council on a number of occasions. “Looking around the city, there are plenty of places that are vacant, and I think the Council should give them to the people, let the people buy them from them. It’s disgraceful; no wonder the Irish are so unhappy,” she says.

“I have arthritis, I suffer from depression and when I want to use the bathroom I have to go up two flights of stairs,” says Claire Farrelly, who lives in Cuffe Street. “I’m on the transfer list for the last few years; there are flats here but they are not getting renovated because the Council hasn’t got the money to do them.” Claire put in for a transfer over four years ago but has yet to hear anything back. “They brushed me off and any communication is me ringing them, not them ringing me.”

Claire is originally from Baldoyle; she moved to Cuffe Street because it was the only place the Council would locate her.

She’s on a Disability Allowance and depends on her 16 year old daughter for additional help with housework and shopping. She is barely able to afford the rent, and with the housing crisis as it is, depends on the Council to provide suitable accommodation.

“I’m just appalled that there are people out there homeless and there are flats in here that can be given to them. Lack of money shouldn’t be an excuse; the excuse they are giving me is that there is no money to build, she says.”

“Now we have a situation where the state doesn’t have the money to fund social housing,” Labour Cllr Dermot Lacey tells NewsFour. “The best way, in my view, to solve the crisis, is to enable communities to build houses themselves. In every single parish in Dublin there’s a local community where you could build 20 or so houses, which can be built off Government balance sheets.”

Dublin City Council has tried to get to grips with the housing crisis for some time now, but for people like Claire and Pauline they are not fast enough. In January, the Assistant City Manager with responsibility for housing, Dick Brady, said they had built only 29 social houses in 2013, this despite the fact there are more than 16,000 applicants waiting for social housing in the city alone.

In May, while the rest of the country was to see an investment of €50 million for new social housing nationwide, Dublin City Council proposed a cut to the housing of 50% over the next two years.

A copy of the NESC report can be found online at NESC.ie

By Liam Cahill