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No Fixed Abode

Tents at the Red Cow M50 junction – In this article, Ross Murray opines about the state of Ireland’s housing crisis and wonders have we really moved on from the dark days of the 19th Century? 


No Fixed Abode – In this article, Ross Murray opines about Ireland’s housing crisis and wonders have we really moved on from the dark days of 19th Century

Blink and you’ll miss it. Or take a walk through Dublin city center. Take your eyes off the screen and take a good look around. There is discarded shoes and assorted camping equipment strewn throughout our capital city. Every secluded space in this town has played host to temporary homes over the last few years and it is only increasing. I have a hard time believing any news saying that we’ve entered a new era of prosperity. All I see is merchandising. The steel and glass buildings currently being constructed are neatly laid out like products on a shelf. And overpriced ones at that. It’s all just one big real estate opportunity. The entire country is being viewed through this prism. The political class of this country might as well be wearing some kind of retail uniform. Try corresponding with any government departments. Especially Social Protection. You will more than likely be referred to as a customer. This is a retail experience unlike anything else. If there’s nothing on the shelf but a five euro jug of milk and you need it, you’ll pay for it. While out the back of the shop massively discounted prices are offered for the same to groups that are set to make massive profits on their investment. By slowly dropping the milk out onto the shelves. Or renting it out for a tenner.

We’ve been here before. Only 10 to 15 years ago you wouldn’t be eligible for government rent assistance on a 40k per year salary. People working had disposable incomes. Instead of trying to bring profit margins down they were kept as high as possible by stymieing supply. It all looked great on paper. Everybody was, ahem, happy. Until the crash. Now it would have been prudent for some kind of debt reduction on that occurring after it dropped on us. But no, the margin had to be maintained at all costs. Demolition of ghost estates, neglect of national public housing. And of course the discounted bulk sales to foreign investment funds. Every penny had to be paid back. You would think now in 2019 a bit of common sense would prevail. But no again. Prices have exceeded the height of the boom. Loopholes have been found in legislation that was designed to bring the cost down. Student accommodation doesn’t have to make any provision for social housing. Hotel planning permission uses homelessness to build more hotels. High occupancy rates are cited as reasons for more of them. What percentage of that rate are people using hotels as emergency accommodation? Walk down the boardwalk any morning and watch it come to life at 11am when they all leave for the day. It gets crowded. Go all the way down the quays. Stop off at the I.F.S.C for a coffee and take in the sights of Re-invented Ireland. Topped off with a museum dedicated to the famine. That’s all truly a thing of the past. Ireland today does not mirror the country of 100 years ago. It is edging closer to the one of 200 years ago.

During the Napoleonic Wars, We had a class system based on the English Model. The landlords at the top, a middle class and a growing working class. During that time we experienced an economic boom. Everything we could produce was in high demand. Standards of living rose for those at the top and the money rolled in. Until the wars ended. Export prices slumped and it could be said the country went into recession. You could even say they were austere times. People became dependent on the potato. And we all know where that led and the movements that subsequently followed. Micheal Davitt recognized early on what the problem was. It was the near feudal system Ireland was operated under. The work of the Land League, Parnell and Gladstone, The Wyndham Act of 1903 and the subsequent legislation passed by the British Parliament and the Dail of the Irish Free State emancipated Irish people economically. No longer would the majority of Irish GDP be payed out to Landlords. It meant an end to the place we held at the bottom. We had gained economic Independence. No more would we be in fear of the Landlords and the Irish middle classes which ran their estates. No longer would their income prop up that system. That was the idea. And look at how it worked out for all of us. It meant Ireland could be lived in and that we could thrive. That progress is currently being reversed by the Fine Gael government with the support of Fianna Fail.What does this mean for the future? Are we going to be perpetually in a ten year cycle of boom to bust?

When the current bubble bursts will we just increase the Universal social charge and ensure those institutions that overcharged us are kept buoyant? Will we continue on with the austerity that has been so prevalent in Ireland and Britain over the last decade? Or will we take some lessons from the early to mid part of the 20th century and build in the manner that gave us our original celtic tiger years? I would like to believe the latter will take place. But judging by what has occurred in the last few years, and still continuing to unfold, it will more than likely be the former. So maybe that group of people camping in the middle of the busiest junction of Dublins’ motorway are on to something. No rent or property tax to pay. Just a reduction in your life expectancy. Maybe I can live and work like that for the next 20 years until I get some sort of home sorted via the Dublin City Council Housing List. My mind is made up. I’m already on my way to buy a tent.

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