’20 Empty Homes Per Each Homeless Family’


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Policy analyst Dr Rory Hearne

People’s basic needs, in terms of human rights, if we look at social needs, in terms of housing, health care, childcare, jobs decent-quality jobs – are not being met.

If we just take the housing crisis for example. We have almost 7,000 people homeless in this country, record numbers. There was almost 500 children homeless in 2014, we now have over 2,000 – that’s a four-fold increase in that space of time.

We have almost 100,000 families and individuals on the social housing waiting list… the facts are that there is 8,000 social housing units, that includes local authority and housing associations, that are in some stage of planning. There’s only 1,800 – that’s a quarter of that number – actually on site that is likely to be built in the next two years.

There was about 500 local authority, plus housing association, 500 social housing units built last year. At that rate we will be 200 years before we meet the housing waiting list. [Minister for Housing Simon] Coveney Rebuilding Ireland plan and the Government’s housing plan is not actually going to deliver the social housing and the housing that’s needed…

There are between 800 to 1000 families homeless in Dublin and, at the same time there are 20,000 vacant homes, vacant houses, according to the CSO. So that’s 20 empty houses per each homeless family. And it’s just illogical that we have this situation where housing/property is treated primarily as an investment, as an asset, rather than a home and a need.

And, you know, I think this underlies part of why we’re in this crisis. Because we have vultures buying up property, we have Real Estate Investment Trusts coming in. And we’ve the Government just sitting there – yet the Government could be building, you know, 10,000 affordable rental homes every year, if it took on models like the European cost rental model – which provides, using public land for a mix of incomes – Austria does it, Denmark does it. These countries provide much more levels of affordable housing than us.

But it seems like our politicians and our Government are just obsessed with this free market approach – where the State cannot intervene – and, you know, maybe it’s not coincidental that a significant proportion of them are landlords themselves.

But there’s this real, I’d describe like it’s an unwillingness to change things radically. And what is really disappointing … in the last election, there was a very clear message of people wanted investment in public services – they wanted a more equal Ireland – that was the message back.

It was a rejection of the idea of the recovery and yet, rather than taking that energy that’s there and we saw it, the same in Apollo House recently, where we had thousands of volunteers being involved and saying ‘we want to address this crisis’. And that’s what’s really disappointing.

The people still believe in the idea of a fair Ireland, they want to get involved in helping it. Yet, what are our politicians and our Government doing? It’s like they’ve given up on the idea of an equal republic. All they are focused on is their party and them getting one better on each other.

The disconnect between politics and between people’s lives, I think, has got to the point where it is just disgusting.

The mainstream politics and main media discussion about politics is all about personalities and about competition for the spoils of power rather than actually ‘are we dealing with the issues that affect people’?

But if you talk to the people on the street – what do they want politics to be about? They want it to be about ‘are you dealing with the housing crisis, are you dealing with those awful, awful stories of children who are waiting months and years for health care? That’s what they want politics to be dealing with.

Dr Rory Hearne speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night.

Watch back in full here

Earlier: Considering The Source

Related: Fine Gael heads the landlord list as TDs cash in with property (Mark Tighe, Sunday Times)

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11 thoughts on “’20 Empty Homes Per Each Homeless Family’

  1. m.e.

    Why doesn’t the government incentivise those with empty homes/property to house the homeless? Surely there’s a way to lower the high amount of money spent and shelters and get people into a home, perhaps through some sort of a grant paid to the owner. Meddling with the legal structures of REITs isn’t going to fix the supply issue, nor is the more extreme idea of redistributing land and houses.

  2. ollie

    why should I pay twice the European average for my mortgage while my taxes are supposed to provide free housing for people who can’t afford a mortgage, partly because the rates are twice the European average?

    Meanwhile, my local authority is giving me €1450 a month to rent an apartment to a homeless family who could afford a mortgage if the lending rules weren’t so fucked up and if the mortgage rates were at the level they should be at
    €200,000 mortgage over 25 years in Germany costs €861 a month, my tenant pays €850 in rent but they can’t get a mortgage.

    Meanwhile, Noonan protects sex offenders.

  3. Junkface

    Also how much is the Gov’t spending per month on paying for Self catering Hotel apartments for families in difficulty? It must be close to €500,000. The whole situation is Madness!

  4. Digs

    “Dr.”… Academia is at a low ebb in this country.

    How dare people look for optimal market dictated returns on thier investments! What do you think this is, a capitalist structure?


    1. Anne

      It’s socialism for the rich, cut throat capitalism for the poor.

      That’s the structure.

      1. Anne

        here –


        Because the rules of the game – including labor laws, pension laws, corporate laws and tax laws – have been crafted by those at the top.

        Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo, at the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco on November 3, 2015. The author writes that Mayer tells us a lot about why Americans are so angry, and why anti-establishment fury has become the biggest single force in American politics today. Yahoo’s stock lost about a third of its value last year, yet Mayer earned $36 million in compensation. Even if Yahoo’s board fires her, her contract stipulates she gets $54.9 million in severance. In other words, Mayer can’t lose.

        Mayer is CEO of Yahoo. Yahoo’s stock lost about a third of its value last year, as the company went from making $7.5 billion in 2014 to losing $4.4 billion in 2015. Yet Mayer raked in $36 million in compensation.

        Even if Yahoo’s board fires her, her contract stipulates she gets $54.9 million in severance. The severance package was disclosed in a regulatory filing last Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

        In other words, Mayer can’t lose.

        It’s another example of no-lose socialism for the rich—winning big regardless of what you do.

        Why do Yahoo’s shareholders put up with it? Mostly because they don’t know about it.

        Most of their shares are held by big pension funds, mutual funds and insurance funds whose managers don’t want to rock the boat because they skim the cream regardless of what happens to Yahoo.

        In other words, more no-lose socialism for the rich.

        I don’t want to pick on Ms. Mayer or the managers of the funds that invest in Yahoo. They’re typical of the no-lose system in which America’s corporate and financial elite now operate.  

        But the rest of America works in a different system.

        Theirs is cutthroat hyper-capitalism—in which wages are shrinking, median household income continues to drop, workers are fired without warning, two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck and employees are being classified as “independent contractors” without any labor protections at all.

  5. Devine

    All of this is correct.

    But let’s get back to the Property market for a moment. In Ireland, ‘the property market’ is corrupt’ and the political process (including many politicians) have been corrupted by it.

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