Graham Harrington Secretary to Cork Branch stated. On behalf of the Communist Party of Ireland, I’d like to start by saying that we think it’s wrong to call what we are in a housing crisis. This implies that the current situation is accidental, the reality however, is that it is by design. The Irish state’s housing policy is working perfectly well. Their goal is not to provide everyone with a home, but to maximise profit.
The Bishop of Cork, Bishop Lucey, once said in the 1930s that “Public Housing is akin to Bolshevism. A home-owning citizenry will make more compliant citizens”. That has been the ideology of the state when it comes to housing. The point is to make working-class people compliant, trapped by high rents, low-paid jobs, the constant threat of eviction and costs of living skyrocketing.
The state has given landlords billions in subsidies, with schemes such as Rent Supplement, RAS, HAP just being ways for the state to transfer wealth to their friends in the property-owning elite. 30% of the current housing budget goes straight into the pockets of landlords. The state has also sought to attract housing associations, REITs, and transnational corporations into the rental sector by means of tax incentives – and by artificially inflating rents in the private sector through not investing in public housing.
Nearly a third of all Tds are themselves landlords or property developers. James Connolly once said that “governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class.” How little has changed.
So far, we have only fought defensively, reacting to the latest government policy and allowing them to set the agenda. We need to have a clear understanding of this state and the interests it represents. We need to set our own battle-lines. Get them under pressure for once. In other words, we need to go on the offensive.
A chairde, the CPI calls for universal public housing, with rents linked to income. We don’t stand for reforming the current housing model by adopting trendy “solutions” such as cost-rental housing which leave landlords off the hook and only kick the can down the road. We don’t stand for getting rid of the worse aspects of the current model, but for changing it. We have to cut to the root of the issue – capitalism.
We need to go beyond defensive demands such as calling for “social and affordable housing”. Who decides what is affordable, the market? We need to campaign to defend and extend the provision of public housing. Only through tackling the very core of the landlord class and its interests can we build a society where housing is a right, not a commodity.
We must fight for public housing; publicly built, publicly owned and rented to the people, as a right, on an ability to pay basis. Nothing less must be acceptable. Universal public housing will bring about reduced rents all around, reduce property prices and force corporate investors out, with a significant number of properties becoming vacant and available to be added to our stock.
This will not be gifted to us, it has to be struggled for. Only then can we build sustainable communities for our children to live in.