Tag Archives: Home Sweet Home

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From top: Apollo House last Wednesday; Dr Rory Hearne

Before Apollo, there was a feeling that we were collectively stuck in a sad and shameful silence – a sense of powerlessness that there was little we could do.

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

Thank you, Apollo and Home Sweet Home.

Before Apollo the only sound was silence. The homeless suffered in silence.

We saw their suffering and were silent. The dignity of our fellow human beings was stripped from them on our streets and was stripped from them again in hostels more dangerous than the cold and rainy streets.

There was silence about the thousands of children and their families being forced to live in unsuitable emergency accommodation with hugely traumatic impacts.

There was silence in relation to the thousands of families in mortgage arrears facing the threat of repossession and eviction, the thousands whose homes have been bought by vultures and Real Estate Investment Trusts.

There was only silence as thousands of families, renting in the private rented sector, struggle to afford the rents and face eviction, and as 100,000 households languish on social housing waiting lists.

Before Apollo, there was silence as the Government and NAMA went about selling our land and houses at knock-down prices to vulture property speculators.

But, of course, in saying there was just silence – I am just deliberatiely being provocative. There wasn’t complete silence about the housing crisis.

There was a lot of noise being made, particularly by Government. But it was loud and empty political rhetoric. Empty phrases. Hollow platitudes and feigned concern. Policies without sincerity. Plans without substance. Media interviews without analysis.

There was fictitious numbers of imaginary social houses that would only ever exist on paper; NAMA strategies based on feeding the speculative vultures and starving our people of homes.

It was, in fact, a post-colonial re-colonisation by vultures – facilitated once more by our own quisling class – the so-called political ‘leaders’, the so called ‘experts’. Those who know better than us. Those who make the ‘right’ decisions.

So, of course, there was a lot of ‘official’ noise about the housing crisis but much of it was no better than silence. In fact, it was worse than silence because it gave the impression officialdom actually cared and they were doing something that would solve it.

But, most importantly and most shamefully, there was too much silence from the Irish people. Did we care? Did anyone make any real noise? Yes, in fact there was a growing move for change. The housing crisis and homelessness was raised by ordinary people as a major election issue. It forced politicians to give it some focus.

And, of course, it is not true that before Apollo House the only sound from the Irish people was silence. In the communities of North Dublin, of St Michael’s Estate – the seeds of Apollo were being sown in the pioneering actions and vision of a new generation of housing activists involved in the Irish Housing Network, Housing Action Now, the Dublin Tenants Association, Erica Fleming, the Ringsend Glass Bottle Site Housing Action Campaign, the North Dublin Bay Housing Action Community, Uplift, and many more.

A new trade union-led campaign had just emerged to focus on rent certainty and security. The NGOs such as Focus, Simon and the Peter McVerry Trust were actively responding – providing services and constantly highlighting the growing tsunami of homelessness.

But, before Apollo, there was a feeling that we were collectively stuck in a sad and shameful silence – a sense of powerlessness that there was little we could do.

But that has all changed and changed utterly.

Apollo and Home Sweet Home have brought about an unprecedented level of public and political focus and attention on the housing crisis, in particular:

· The extent of the homelessness crisis

· The illogicality and immorality of empty State-owned NAMA buildings while people are homeless on our streets

· The unacceptable standards that exist in some emergency accommodation

· The necessity of homes rather than emergency hostels

· The inadequacy of the Government’s plans to address the housing crisis outlined in ‘Rebuilding Ireland’.

Apollo and Home Sweet Home have stirred the spirits and hearts of the Irish people. It touched and activated the deep sense of social justice and solidarity that exists in people. Across social classes and across the country, it captivated and captured the majority of the country in a wave of optimistic belief that we can end this national shame of ever-worsening levels of homelessness.

In Apollo, homeless people, artists, ordinary citizens, trade unionists and activists together created a transformative space that inspired, motivated, and connected with the country in a myriad of magical ways.

Apollo evoked in all of us the urgent and giddy dream of an equal Republic.

Apollo was always going to be temporary – given the priority the courts and Government gives to private property rights – it could only but be so.

But, that short moment of courage and vision has opened up a societal conversation and debate and the beginnings of a societal wide social movement that would not have existed. Indeed was unimaginable prior to Apollo House.

And after Apollo, the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney can no longer use his misleading figures to silence us. Home Sweet Home have highlighted the policies required to really address the homelessness and wider housing crisis. Principally, these include::

· A new major investment programme in social and affordable housing that actually builds tens of thousands of new social and affordable housing units each year

· The changing of NAMA’s commercial mandate to a social one and converting it into an affordable homes agency that would use its land and assets to build tens of thousands of social and affordable housing rather than selling off to vultures

· Real protection for tenants renting and families in mortgage arrears from eviction

After Apollo, there is no longer silence or powerlessness. There can no longer be silence and passivity. Property rights and profit rights can no longer be allowed to obstruct the human right to a home.

The question is where to now? Across the country people want to take action to address the homelessness and housing crisis. They know the crisis is only going to worsen. Those most affected require on-going support. Apollo inspired and provided a focus for solidarity, practical support, and a symbol of hope and defiance.

At its heart – Apollo was (and Home Sweet Home remains) a community and a coalition of diverse groups and individuals all willing to work together to achieve the one common aim – the right to a home for all. By keeping that common heart beating, we will find a way forward.

Apollo is not over. It has just begun.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academc, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Rollingnews

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Apollo House, Tara Street, Dublin 2

Further to the agreement reached between the Home Sweet Home campaigners and the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney…

The Irish Housing Network writes:

The Home Sweet Home Campaign is growing increasingly concerned about the government’s commitment to honour the terms of the agreement reached between Minister Simon Coveney and Home Sweet Home.

Recent statements from the minister, coupled with feedback from Apollo residents who had recently been placed in substandard accommodation; have introduced doubt into the proceedings.

The agreement reached yesterday resulting from lengthy negotiations, set out the terms by which Home Sweet Home and the Department of Housing would amicably conclude the occupation of Apollo House, and take serious measures to address the housing emergency.

Eight residents have returned to Apollo House in the past 24 hours distressed that the accommodation offered to them by DCC were completely unsuitable to their needs.

Drugs and alcohol were being used in the facilities offered, which represents a clear failure to meet the specific needs of those residents, and constitutes a failure to meet the terms of the agreement .

As one former resident of Apollo stated of the type of accommodation he is currently in:

“No keys, no food, no washing machine, no wardrobe, people getting drunk, injecting and smoking heroin in rooms, not possible to sleep due to music and shouting till 4am, phones getting robbed, vomit in the hallways, needles everywhere, atmosphere on the verge of explosion of violence, gang threatening to stomp another resident soon.”

The Minister’s statements undermining the provision of two new buildings has also raised serious concerns as to the good faith of the agreements made at the negotiation table.

It was agreed that two new buildings, additional to the ones announced by Dublin City Council on their website on November 30, 2016, were committed to by Coveney in the negotiations, and the minimum standards in Apollo House would be the new benchmark for these two new additional facilities.

The Minister for Housing is downplaying the significant achievement reached by a citizens’ intervention in the worst housing crisis the state has ever seen.

In doing so, the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in society are being ignored.

Home Sweet Home member Tommy Gavin said:

“Yesterday we reached an agreement with Coveney and we intend on holding him to his agreement. However, the Government cannot accept the precedent that has been set by direct action. They are claiming that all these changes that have been enforced already existed, contrary to Dublin City Council and Peter McVerry Trust claiming otherwise. Is this what Government negotiations and mutual agreements amount to?”

Home Sweet Home will, as per the agreement, only leave when the residents’ needs have been met.

The long and short-term needs of the residents, as of this evening, have not been met and only when they have been met will the residents and Home Sweet Home be leaving Apollo House.

Response To Coveney’s Undermining His Commitments To Home Sweet Home (Irish Housing Network)

Earlier: The House Wins

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From top: Simon Coveney TD and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien English TD 

The Rebuilding Ireland Plan has allocated insufficient funding, is manipulating the use of the term ‘social housing’ and misleading people with its promises

Dr Rory Hearne writes:

The government has been responding to the Apollo House action by stating that dealing with the housing crisis is its “number one priority” and that their housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland, will address the crisis through the investment of €5bn in “a truly ambitious social housing programme of 47,000 units to 2021”.

Minister Coveney claims that “There’s a real acceleration happening here in terms of delivery” and has stated that there will be more than “21,000 social housing solutions provided in 2017”. With Budget 2017 providing “for a very significant increase in housing funding (of €1.3 billion).

But the Minister’s figures and the Rebuilding Ireland Housing Action plan just don’t add up.

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The graph above is the forecast provision of social housing in the Rebuilding Ireland Plan from 2016-2021. But in this you see that the new construction of social housing (represented by dark blue shade at the bottom) is only a very small proportion of the overall 100,000 ‘social housing’ units to be provided over the next 5 years.

The majority of ‘social housing’ is in fact not new build social housing at all but are various housing support schemes provided through the private rented sector such as the Housing Assistance Payment and the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

These social housing ‘solutions’ (as the Minister’s refers to, note change of language from ‘new build housing units’ to ‘solutions’) are temporary, do not provide tenants with security of tenure and most importantly do not increase the much needed supply of real permanent social housing homes.

The schemes such as RAS and HAP have not met their delivery targets due to lack of availability of private rental housing (thus the governments social housing strategy also exacerbates the rental crisis – as it is taking supply from a sector that requires greater supply – a third of all tenancies are state funded social housing schemes.These should not be classified as social housing as it is not providing a secure form of tenancy).

Of course the HAP schemes suit government because they can reduce the housing waiting lists and make it appear as if the housing crisis is being dealt with – also while subsidising private landlords and avoiding allocating the necessary increase in funding to government/local authority state provision of affordable housing.

The Rebuilding Ireland Quarterly Review published in November gave the first official figures for what is represented in the graph above and breaks down the 47,000 ‘new social housing’ units figure.

This outlines that of the 47,000 social housing units by 2021:·

It is expected that 26,000 units will be built (construction, voids, Part V) exclusively for social housing

11,000 will be acquired (by LA, AHB & HA) from the market

And 10,000 units will be leased by LAs and AHBs – this will be a mix of units from the existing housing stock and newly-built units

Now the key figure here is the new build one because this provides additional housing supply. This is particularly important in Dublin, the commuter counties and other large cities (Galway, Cork) which need new units built and do not have the same vacancy level as other parts of the country. So the actual figure for ‘new build’ social housing units is 26,000 units (just over half the headline 47,000 figure).

Now as is mentioned this also includes bringing local authority voids back into use and new housing built under Part V (the 10% social housing provided in large private housing developments). But Part V delivered just 65 units in 2015 (but 286 were in progress).

Given that Part V delivered 3,246 units in 2007 (4.5% of total 71,000 private units delivered), and that was when Part V was 20% of all developments – which has since been reduced to 10% (but developers could pay cash to the local authority in lieu of the units and this is no longer available), then using the same percentage, then on the basis of 25,000 private units per annum, Part V is likely to deliver no more than 1,250 units per annum in the coming years.

That brings the 26,000 ‘new builds’ down to 24,750.

It was also estimated that 800 local authority voids would be brought back into use in 2017 so taking that away it leaves us with 23,950 new real social housing units planned to be built between now and 2021: which is 3,991 units per annum.

At that rate of delivery it would take 22 years to house all those of the current social housing waiting lists (90,000 households) into real permanent social housing homes.

How can that, in any way, be deemed an acceptable time frame of delivery to address the crisis? Particularly given that housing need is increasing significantly.

So what about the increase in the allocation in social housing investment in Budget 2017? The total exchequer Housing allocation in 2017 will be €1.2 billion –up from €814million in 2016.

However this is the same trick – the main increase is on temporary social housing through the private rental sector. Current (mainly spent on private rental sector schemes and leasing from private sector) increases from €382m to €566m while capital expenditure (includes new building and purchase of permanent social housing) only increased by an additional €150 million from €432m in 2016 to €655m in 2017.

But the ‘housing’ capital budget appears also includes €50m for an ‘infrastructure’ fund for local authorities to enable the development of private sites for housing, the payment for previous social housing already built by housing associations, the mortgage to rent scheme, urban regeneration, €70m for retrofitting existing social housing stock, €45 million for grants for private housing and funding for schemes such as the Pyrite Remediation Scheme. So while we don’t have an exact figure we can see that the actual budget allocation for new building (and purchase) of social housing is certainly under €400 million.

Therefore, the social housing units outlined in the Rebuilding Ireland plan are in fact largely various forms of private sector and privatised housing delivery. They are dependent on various forms of private financing, ‘off-balance sheet’ mechanisms, Public Private Partnerships, acquisition from the private market and delivery from Part V mechanisms.

The plan itself acknowledges that securing the social housing output is “dependent on a number of critical factors” including, most importantly,

“A functioning private residential construction sector, with levels of supply to meet demand (delivering 10% social housing units under Part V and providing a supply for targeted acquisitions)”.

Social housing provision is being privatised onto the private rented sector– which has meant a failure to achieve social housing targets and reduced private rental stock available to the wider population. This is not a ‘social housing’ strategy!

And this is where the plan ultimately fails. Its output of social housing is dependent on a very significant increase in supply in the private housing market which has already proven in its inability to do so.

What is required is an increase of the social housing capital allocation to €2bn per annum to local authorities and housing associations to ensure the building of at least 12,000 new permanent social housing units. This is alongside the changing of NAMA’s mandate to prioritise its social mandate over the maximising financial return and to ensure the 20,000 units it builds are affordable and public housing units – and to use its 3bn cash reserves to build an additional affordable and social 30,000 units.

It is only when we get close to building at least 20,000 new affordable and social housing units per annum that we can get close to addressing the national emergency of the housing crisis.

Ultimately the only guarantee of affordable supply of housing to a broad range of income groups (from the lowest income to middle income workers) is by the state through local authorities (with support from Housing associations). A social mix in developments can be achieved by the state building affordable housing available to different income groups.

This should be a mix of traditional public housing, cost rental housing, shared ownership, equity partnerships and cooperative housing. It is the time for a ‘New Deal’ in housing where we take this opportunity to ensure the provision of affordable and high quality homes as a right to all in this country.

It is great to see that Home Sweet Home’s Emergency Housing Plan includes these ideas as some of its core proposals.

Home Sweet Home outlines that there should be the provision of “a minimum of 10,000 new social/public housing units owned by Local Authorities and Approved Housing Bodies per year for the next decade in order to clear all social housing lists”.

The government should “suspend all sales by NAMA of land and assets and use its finances to deliver 10,000 new social and affordable housing units for families and low-income households”.

Most importantly Home Sweet Home outlines that this new social and affordable housing building programme can be financed through “ceasing all tax cuts until the current housing and homelessness crisis has been averted”. It states that it “is morally reprehensible that we have so far given more than €2.5 billion in tax cuts while homelessness has doubled and thousands of children are spending their childhoods growing up in hotel rooms”.

They also highlight correctly that “should borrowing be necessary, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has borrowed €500m at an interest rate of 0.81%. This low cost borrowing could provide up to 5,000 social housing units per year”. F

urthermore, they point out that in 2014 the Irish League of Credit Unions formally proposed making up to €5bn available for social and affordable housing schemes but “two years on and Government has yet to formally respond. This source of funding should be accessed as a matter of urgency”.

The reality is that the government in its Rebuilding Ireland Plan has allocated insufficient funding to the new build of permanent real social housing homes. It is manipulating the use of the term ‘social housing’ and misleading people with the figures it is using in order to suggest its plans will address the crisis – when in fact there is much less new build of real social housing in the plans than the government is trying to portray.

Rebuilding Ireland is a fundamentally flawed plan as it driven more by an ideological aversion to the state building affordable homes than evidence-based policy solutions based on meeting the housing needs and right to housing for people.

The Plan is based on the taxpayer incentivising and subsidising the private construction industry and private speculative finance through the various private rental social housing schemes, the ‘help-to-buy’ subsidy (for which there was no cost-benefit analysis done!), Real Estate Investment Trust tax breaks, the sell-off and leasing of local authority land to developers and the sale by NAMA at discount of land and property to vulture funds and investors.

The alternative approach outlined above is, therefore, urgently required. And that is why it is really important that the Apollo House and Home Sweet Home campaign gain sufficient public support to achieve this policy change.

Dr Rory Hearne is a policy analyst, academc, social justice campaigner. He writes here in a personal capacity. Follow Rory on Twitter: @roryhearne

Rollingnews

 

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This afternoon.

Apollo House, Tara Street, Dublin 2

Musicians Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey (pic 2) attend a press conference where Home Sweet Home outlined their intention to present an  Emergency Housing Plan to Housing Minister Simon Coveney tomorrow.

Above from left: Unite’s David Gibney, Brendan Ogle , filmmaker Terry McMahon and Oisin Fagan.

Press conference Video here.

Earlier: “We Will Fix It”

Rollingnews

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Glen Hansard, left and Brendan Ogle, right, with Home Sweet Home supporters outside the Four Courts this evening.

There you go now.

Earlier: Apollo Mission

Midnight At The Apollo

Meanwhile…

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Sligo Rises.

Thanks Ronan Emmet

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This morning.

At the High Court, Dublin.

Home Sweet Home writes:

Apollo House, which currently houses 35 residents who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets, faces threat of closure in Dublin’s High Court this morning.

Activists and residents call on all support to join them outside the courts to show support and help us to keep this building open for those in need of shelter. Mazars Receivers, apopointed by NAMA, have ordered the building to be vacated and lie empty again.

More as we get it

Keep Apollo Open! Support us in the courts (Facebook)

Earlier: Midnight At The Apollo

Pics: Mathieu Norry

Meanwhile…

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Annie West’s ‘What If?’ (New Island).

A last-minute stocking filler from the desk of Sligo of artist Annie West.

But that’s not all.

Annie writes:

Buy anything from the shop from now until Sunday and ALL profits will go to #homesweethome

Shop here

Annie West

Irish-made stocking fillers to broadsheet@broadsheet.ie marked ‘Irish-Made Stocking Fillers’. No fee.

glen

This afternoon.

Apollo House, Tara Street, Dublin 2

Glen Hansard sings the Auld Triangle at the occupied Nama-controlled property as a ‘thank you’ to supporters.

Pic via Daryl Hogg

Earlier:

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This afternoon.

Supporters of the Home Sweet Home occupation of Apollo House – including Social Democrats TDs Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall (fourth pic) – gather outside the building on Tara Street, Dublin 2.

Glen Hansard is playing a free gig to say ‘thank you’ to supporters of the occupation of the building which is now being used to offer accommodation for homeless people.

Earlier: Free At 1pm?

Pics: Karin Carthy, Mark McDonnell,  Social Democrats, Aaron McAllorum

UPDATE:

Glen sings This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.

Meanwhile…

Update: