9 July 1998 Edition
Workers in struggle
Housing crisis ignored
Waiting lists in Dublin increase by nearly 200%
In the 1996 Department of the Environment survey there were 702 applicants on the South Dublin waiting list. Now the numbers have risen to 2,035
To the uninformed outsider it might not seem that there is a housing crisis in the 26 Counties. Nowhere is this ``let's ignore the problem'' attitude more prevalent than in Dublin where numbers of homeless people and housing waiting lists are greatest. Yet the media is preoccupied with other pressing issues of home ownership.
Last week the newspapers, radio stations and even television news bulletins of Dublin reported extensively on the sale of a house in Dalkey for £5.6 million, a record for such a property. The fact that a basic necessity such as a house could be an expensive commodity was, it seems, not an issue. The only issue was who could the mystery purchaser be.
Jack Nicholson, George Micheal and Eddie Irvine were all possible buyers. Well, one thing for sure is that none of the purchasers were any of the 1,209 households assessed in March 1996 by the Department of Environment as being in need of local authority housing in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown council area of which Dalkey is a part.
Throughout Dublin and the 26 Counties families are finding themselves effectively homeless. On the one hand they are waiting for their local authority to provide housing because they cannot afford the ever-increasing purchase prices. Then they are caught out in the rental sector because of increasing rents.
A recent survey by Threshold, the housing advice agency, showed that residential rents in the greater Dublin area are set to rise by between 20% and 25% this year. Rents already increased by 12% in 1997. Threshold has in 1998 had to turn away more 1,000 people who could not find affordable rental accommodation.
In the Dublin Corporation area, the 1996 Department of the Environment housing assessment survey found 3,966 applicants were waiting for local authority housing. Figures released by the Corporation last week showed an increase to 5,500 applicants waiting for housing now in July 1998.
Sinn Féin's Dublin South West representative Seán Crowe highlighted the increase in South Dublin's housing waiting list. He told An Phoblacht that in the 1996 Department of the Environment survey there were 702 applicants on the South Dublin waiting list. Now the numbers have risen to 2,035 applicants.
Seán Crowe said that ``Dublin is in the midst of a housing crisis. Consecutive governments linked as they are to many of the large property speculators in the city have allowed this situation to develop''.
``The number of houses being built at present is totally inadequate to the huge demand. The lack of a coherent home building strategy will condemn thousands of families to overcrowded and rundown accommodation for years to come''.
Examples of the lack of a proper strategy for local house building are easily found. Last week Dublin Corporation cited the lack of available sites for building. They claim that all the remaining housing lands in the corporation's ownership will be built on by 2000.
But there is still ample building land in the city. The private sector apartment and retail development in the picture is one that was built on a site formerly owned by Dublin Corporation but sold into private ownership.
Sites like this were sold all around Dublin in order to balance the corporation's accounts in the 1990s. The corporation had to sell these sites because central government funds to the authority were being cut.
The choice for Dublin Corporation was either introduce service charges or sell vital sites that could be used to solve the housing crisis. Dublin Corporation sold the sites. Now the spending allocated for local authority housing by central government has increased by £40 million to £214 million in 1998. Dublin Corporation is it seems unable to make full use of the increased funding available now because of the previous years' cuts in funding.
Another example of this blinkered attitude to the housing crisis is also found in Dublin. Dublin Corporation is running out of building land in the city. However the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has 1,300 acres of redundant land in the inner city to redevelop. How come none of this land can be made available to Dublin Corporation to build homes?
Don't hold your breath waiting for a central government announcement allocating some of the hundreds of available acres in Dublin's docklands to Dublin Corporation's home building programme. Instead we will get the planning permission for towers of luxury apartments and more record house sales. We will not get a home building programme that takes account of the people's actual needs. It's just another week of profits and balance sheets before people.
Minimum wage march
The Minimum Wage Commission might have delivered its report and recommendation of a £4.40 per hour minimum wage, but the campaign to ensure the implementation of the Commission's recommendations goes on.
The Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) and the ICTU are continuing their campaign around the minimum wage to urge ``No watering-down of the recommended rate per hour; Immediate implementation of the National Minimun Wage; Minimum rate without strings or loopholes attached.''
The DCTU are today (9 July) organising a Tour de France Public Awareness Carnival Support Parade. They are carrying on their campaign because the current minimum wage proposals will not be implemented until April 2000. During this two year waiting period inflation will have reduced the value of a £4.40 minimum wage.
Worse still, the Commission has surrounded the wage proposals with conditions and loopholes while employers are still lobbying against the implementation of the Commission's weak proposals. So the DCTU campaign continues. As the old saying goes - They haven't gone away you know.
The memory of Margaret Thatcher might be fading but the effects of Thatcherism are still being felt in Ireland. One often overlooked feature of the Thatcher years is the introduction of Quasi-Autonomous Non Governmental Organisations - Quangos for short.
Quangos were introduced by the Tories throughout Britain and the Six Counties, usually as a way of ceding the powers and administration of local government, health and education sectors away from Tory controlled councils into the hands of central government appointees.
It should come as no surprise to find that in the Six Counties there are more Quangos than any area in Britain. There are according to Klaus Boehm, the editor of a new 700 page directory titled Quangos and Quangocrats, over 50 such bodies in the Six Counties. Boehm also found that Quangos in the Six Counties cross a far broader spectrum than those used in England, Scotland and Wales. It seems then that this is yet another element of British undemocratic rule in Ireland that will have to be dismantled.