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Money Times - August 14, 2018

Posted by Jill Kerby on August 14 2018 @ 09:00

THIS HOUSING AND HOMELESS CRISIS AFFECTS US ALL

Just up the road are two Victorian terraced houses just like mine, with about 1,700 square feet of space and three or four bedrooms, depending on whether you squeeze someone into the box-room or not. There are two reception rooms, a kitchen of varying size and usually 1-2 bathrooms.

These two terraced houses were originally private homes, then bed-sits, then not very well-run private/public emergency-style bedsits when the absentee landlord came to a vague sort of arrangement with the city housing authorities.

After too many years of having to put up with episodes of anti-social behaviour, noise, general mayhem and on-going rat and refuse problems, the houses were put up for sale and sold to the city of Dublin as emergency accommodation.

Once the people in the white ‘hazmat’ suits (aka hazardous material) got finished with them, the building and renovation teams went in; they now provide safe, suitable, supervised emergency accommodation for mainly homeless families.  Most late nights that I walk the dog before we turn in I see taxis arriving with distressed parents and their sleepy children, the youngest clutching teddies; the older children carry their backpacks and pull their small suitcases up the path to the brightly lit entrance.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive deal with families like this every night.

Last Thursday morning social media with full of pictures of six small children aged 1-11, who were sleeping on plastic chairs at Tallaght Garda Station. (A seventh, ill child was staying with others) They appeared to have slipped desperately through the net.

On the RTE 1 o’clock news, the DRHE spokesperson claimed that this was the only family of 10 in total who had dealt with by their Family Homeless Action Team but ended up without beds. All the others were either found shelter for the night, returned to their home areas (outside Dublin) or failed to make final contact with the action team.

A report in the Irish Times stated that this family of settled Travellers from Tallaght had been referred to the Garda Station by Focus Ireland and that they been homeless and for the past year after their rented house had been repossessed. The young mother told the paper that she had yet another appointment the next day with South Dublin County Council City but wasn’t very hopeful – they kept telling her they don’t “have any homes big enough… no hotel rooms big enough”.

That a family of this size has to wait “another four or five years for a house” isn’t acceptable, but there is more at play than just a shortage of suitable, affordable social housing. Our economy is still coming to terms with a crash that happened eight years ago and a much longer state policy to reduce social housing funding and rely on the private sector to fill practically the entire public and private housing demand.  

The government’s most recent policy, undertaken at the behest of our international paymasters, has been to instruct NAMA and the state owned banks to sell off the properties and so called un-performing mortgages it owns to large foreign vulture funds and domestic consortia of investors (who prefer to buying entire apartment buildings, swathes of housing estates). These properties are now rented to the highest bidders. Housing charities say they are unable to compete with the vultures or REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) for these assets.

But still, bricks and mortar remain Ireland’s favourite investment. Fortunes have been made and lost and are being made again, mostly by individual professional landlords and the gombeen ‘stack-em-high’, ‘cash only’ versions who don’t pay their taxes. Even many amateur, ‘this-is-my-pension’ landlords cash in on the misery of working families, modest and low earning workers, and students, especially the tens of thousands of foreign students and immigrants who are viciously exploited by demanding huge rent increases.

Quickly bringing more social housing into the market is a big part of the solution, but so is pursuing the owners of vacant, derelict properties and sites to do rent or sell them or face bigger levies.

Better tax and rent incentives should be offered reluctant amateur landlords to lease their properties under existing schemes to local authorities managers who in return will pay them a steady, fair rent for the agreed term. Illegal overcrowding – where 10-20 people are packed into ordinary private houses/apartments (some sharing double beds) needs to be ended by city authorities, fire and safety authorities and the owner/landlords pursued by flinty eyed investigators from the Revenue Commissioners.

And finally more good, decent, honourable people with a spare room in their homes should be urged to consider joining the tax-free, Rent-a-Room scheme and ask for a reasonable, as opposed to vastly inflated ‘market’ rate, to someone who is desperate for a room (and bed) of their own.

(Letters to jill@jillkerby.ie   The TAB Guide to Money Pensions & Tax 2018 is available in all good bookstores. See www.tab.ie for ebook edition.)  

 

 

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