Hazel De Nortúin
People Before Profit
The unaffordability of rent and mortgages is affecting people from all backgrounds in society. The latest figures show that the average rent in Dublin has reached two grand a month while the average house price is 383 grand.
Developers, landlords, vulture funds and the very wealthiest in society have benefited enormously from the housing crisis while everyone else has suffered. Fine Gael, propped up by Fianna Fáil, have not only facilitated the crisis but actively created it.
The main parties are ideologically opposed to building public homes on public land. They are deliberately aiming to keep rent and house prices high. The supply of homes has been reduced to a trickle in order to facilitate this shameless profiteering.
We need to fight to stop the government and councils selling off our public land. Our public land needs to be used for a mass programme of public housing. This country is now the richest it has ever been and yet we are not seeing the wealth reach most people in society. Ireland could have afford a mass programme of housing in the '50s and '60s when the country was at its poorest. This goal is perfectly achievable. The problem is that the government does not want to achieve it.
People Before Profit wants to see high-quality public housing available to everyone, regardless of their income. We see this model in other places in Europe, where people pay a proportion of their income and have long-term security of tenure without the threat of eviction or the stress of being unable to afford payments. High-quality public housing in Vienna, for example, means that 75 percent of the city rent their homes.
Aside from a state-led public-housing construction programme, I will also work to pressure NAMA to deliver social homes with its current portfolio. Any vacant or derelict properties which have lain unused for a number of years must also be subject to a compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) and renovated for public housing.
Any housing development must also come with proper consultation to ensure that the area has the facilities and green spaces necessary for a vibrant and sustainable community. "
We have seen an astronomical increase in rent in the past few years while people have seen their wages stagnate or have received a pay cuts since the crash. Rents are 37 percent higher now than they were during the boom. This is a huge amount of money (imagine if you were given a 37 percent pay rise!) and yet the government expects us to put up with this situation because it keeps the developers and landlords happy.
People are forced to move out of our areas where they have friends, family or jobs in order to find somewhere to rent. Once they are renting, they find themselves at the mercy of landlords with unaffordable rent and no security. The cost and threat of eviction leads to serious stress and impacts people’s mental health.
Loopholes in current rent caps are being exploited or else regulation is being ignored altogether. Tenants are afraid to challenge these violations and most people do not know their rights. We need to strengthen regulation, close down these loopholes, and inform tenants of their rights. Rent controls must be instated to lower rent and keep it at an affordable cost. Tenants must also have the threat of eviction removed and be given long-term leases with security of tenure.
Short-term solutions like HAP [the Housing Assistance Payment] and RAS [the Rental Accommodation Scheme] have become the government’s main sticking plaster. These measures have seen a huge transfer of wealth into the hands of private landlords at a cost which continues to increase as landlords demand more money.
A mass programme of public-housing construction would see the cost of renting fall as options would open up and people would no longer be forced into the private rental market. I will fight at every opportunity to deliver public housing at local level, along with the facilities and public spaces needed for sustainable community living. For the radical shift in national housing policy that we need, however, it is necessary to build a people-power housing movement of activists, trade unions, political parties and other people who want to see an end to this crisis. We need a movement which will take on the landlord parties and secure the right to housing to provide homes for all.
To that end, I am proud that People Before Profit are active in building and promoting movements such as the Homeless and Housing Coalition and the recent Raise the Roof rallies. The victory we saw over water charges can be replicated if people organise in their communities and take to the streets to demand real change.
The latest official figure place the amount of homeless people in Ireland at 10,305, including 4,000 children. The government’s official figures have been widely criticised. We know the real number of homeless people is much higher than what we are being told. There is the hidden homeless of people sleeping on sofas, staying in friends' houses or living in overcrowded accommodation. There are families staying in hotel rooms or family hubs, forced to comply with restrictions on visitors, the use of communal spaces and curfews.
People Before Profit is pushing for an immediate ban on evictions to stop the soaring homelessness figures. We demand real security of tenure for all tenants. An emergency programme of public housing would provide much-needed homes and we would no longer have the scandal of families being raised in hubs and hostels.
We have been told by successive governments that there are no solutions overnight. This has been the excuse now for years as we have watched the homeless figures climb up and up. It is not a question of the government failing to act overnight. Their deliberate policy is to actively facilitate the profits of landlords, developers, and vulture funds.
The market has not delivered. New developments on the market are instantly snapped up by landlords or the very wealthiest in society. The only solution is a programme of public housing on public land.
We are also calling for a referendum to put the right to housing into the constitution. This is a fundamental human need and it should always be the priority of any government to house its people.
Our candidates in People Before Profit are not just going to vote on committees, they are dedicated activists who are committed to building a mass movement to achieve real change.
There should be a tax on vacant properties and sites which is high enough to be effective. As it stands, land and property hoarders are still free to speculate on the value of land and properties. As the value goes up, these sites are sold for a huge profit. There is no incentive to build when these developers can simply wait and not lift a finger to alleviate the housing crisis.
There should also be a set time frame for developers to commence construction or else they forfeit the site to the local council. We have seen sites in Dublin sitting for so long that planning permission has expired.
I am in favour of a Derelict Sites Register which would include both council-owned and private properties. Properties which have been vacant for longer than a reasonable period of time should be subject to compulsory purchase order (CPOs) in order to provide homes for people.
People Before Profit proposed a motion on Dublin City Council for all derelict properties owned by Dublin City Council to be registered. Our motion passed. However, council management has completely ignored the democratic will of the local elected representatives. This is a constant pattern on Dublin City Council, where unelected management push the government’s agenda at the expense of elected councillors. This illustrates the need for local and national people-power campaigns. People Before Profit activists will give voice to these struggles both inside and outside the council chamber. In order to see substantial change we also need to see real action from people organising in their communities and rallying on the streets.
The IPCC report made it clear that we have 12 years to avert a climate catastrophe. We need to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions to tackle climate change. We are also seeing 1,500 people in Ireland die premature deaths every year due to poor air quality. There is therefore an urgent need to reduce the amount of cars on the road.
An underfunded public transport system encourages people to choose cars over public transport. We need to oppose the privatisation agenda of Fine Gael, which has seen several of our bus routes handed over to private operators Go Ahead. Our public transport must not be run for profit. Any money made should be invested back into the service to improve its quality and ensure the employees are fairly paid.
People Before Profit are in favour of significant investment in our public transport services to put more buses on the road and provide a better service for people overall. To encourage more people to use public transport, we also propose that the service is free to use and funded by progressive taxation. This model has worked in other European cities and has proven to be effective.
There are aspects of the BusConnects plan we would support but we have great concerns about the absence of proper consultation. The previous version of the plan would have seen many parts of our local area without any bus service at all. The elderly, people with disabilities and people with children, in particular, would have suffered the most with these plans.
Cycling infrastructure, along with better public transport, needs to be improved to reduce our city’s reliance on cars. As it stands, it is often unsafe to cycle in many parts of the city. We need to provide more cycle lanes to ensure both children and adults can cycle for recreation and as a form of transport which produces no emissions.
Cycle paths can be developed in tandem with green spaces in our city. This would be hugely beneficial for both physical exercise and mental health.
The rental bikes have proven to be a success in Dublin city centre. This system should be expanded to other areas of Dublin, particularly the suburbs.
The relentless pursuit of growth and profit by the world’s corporations is leading to environmental destruction. We are heading towards a cliff edge and, rather than applying the brakes, the people in charge are pushing the accelerator. The IPCC report gives us 12 years to prevent a climate catastrophe. The government has consistently failed to meet its targets for climate change. [Taoiseach] Leo Varadkar himself has admitted his government have been “laggards” on climate change. The target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent from the years 2005 to 2020 has failed spectacularly. The government is on target to reduce emissions by just 1 percent.
[People Before Profit TD] Bríd Smith’s climate emergency bill would ban the government from issuing any further licences to extract fossil fuels. Fine Gael have vigorously opposed this measure as they do not want to upset their allies in the oil and gas industry.
A hundred of the world's corporations are responsible for 71 percent of carbon emissions, yet Fine Gael would rather punish people for heating their homes than tackle the real culprits. The right-wing tactics of blaming the individual will not solve climate change. Fuel poverty in Dublin is already a serious problem. We need to retrofit homes to reduce energy usage, target the profits of fossil fuel companies and shift away from regressive methods of energy production. Ireland can provide a cleaner, greener alternative by investing in wind, solar and wave energy.
A key issue when shifting towards renewable energy will be a just transition for workers. Workers in the existing fossil fuel industry should be trained for these new jobs. Energy production should also be state-owned to provide maximum benefit for the taxpayer.
Ireland’s beef and dairy herd is responsible for 33 percent of emissions. Rather than move towards more sustainable farming, the government is flying around the world to find new markets in Asia and the Middle East. We also need to reduce the amount of plastics, packaging and food waste that we see in our local supermarkets.
A programme of afforestation would be hugely beneficial to the quality of our air and would allow local wildlife to flourish.
Crucially, we must also reduce the reliance on cars by expanding our rail and bus networks, investing more in these services to improve their quality, and making public transport free to all.
It has been inspiring to see the school students’ strike and the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations here in Ireland and across the world. These movements should give us all hope for the future and the courage we need to tackle one of the greatest threats to humanity.
The privatisation of waste management has been a complete failure. This is a fact which is growing increasingly popular and it is now common sense to the majority of people that waste management needs to be brought back under the control of local councils. We would see an immediate drop in illegal dumping once privatisation was reversed. Local councils should also promote recycling.
To reduce the amount of litter we see on our streets, we need to see more litter bins available throughout Dublin and for the councils to have proper funding available to them for effective street cleaning.
The problem of dog fouling also needs to be met with more dog litter bins, street cleaning and education programmes.
A community is not just somewhere where we live but somewhere where we should be able to feel a sense of belonging, interact with others, and have the facilities and services we need for an enjoyable life. Parks and green spaces are vital for a sustainable community and important for our mental health.
Community consultation must be central to any new developments across Dublin to ensure that communities have the parks and green spaces they need.
Our existing parks must be properly funded to ensure they are maintained. People deserve to have a local park which is clean and vibrant.
In a world where the privatisation agenda is constantly pushed by those in power, it is necessary to fight back on the streets and in our communities. As an activist, I will support any local campaign to keep our public spaces out of private hands. Residents should be entitled to have their amenities such as community centres and sports facilities in public hands. We should also be free to enjoy ourselves in our city without having to pay.
Football pitches, community gardens, allotments, playgrounds, equine centres and skate parks would be welcome additions to many communities who do not have these facilities. Vacant land should be used to promote more public spaces which would be beneficial to people’s health and allow our communities to flourish.