Behind Their Good News.

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Above: Bit Thorn sent us on these snaps of the occupation as it was about to begin last night. We’ll have more. That’s a Youtube video of their GoFundMe appeal below.

Last night housing activists, including a stellar line-up of socially conscious celebs, staged a citizens’ intervention into the housing crisis. They did the obvious and occupied a building under NAMA control on Tara St.  We asked Sean Finnan to poke behind Coveney’s manufactured seasonal goodwill and talk of 4% rent caps in pressure areas, to explore the reality of our nationwide housing crisis and why such action is needed.

Last week in the Dail, minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney stated:

“I first want to give a little bit of good news… Today we have the November figures on homelessness in Dublin and for the first time in a very long time the number of adults and families who are homeless in Dublin has actually reduced, month on month.”

Between this and yesterday’s announcement of a 4% annual rent cap for the next few years, the government is engaging in careless whispers that perhaps the housing crisis has reached its peak.

Below is a breakdown of the numbers that Coveney is referring to when he is heralding his bit of “good news.” The figures come from The Department of Housing’s homeless data where it was stated that as of November 2016 there was a total of 5,134 individuals homeless.

The good news that Coveney is referring to is that in October 2016 there was a total of 5,146 individuals homeless so according to these figures that’s a drop of 12 individuals availing of homeless services. Of these 5,134 individuals that were homeless in November 2016, 2110 were children. In October 2016, there was also 2110 children homeless so the number of children homeless remained atrociously high.

Let’s break this rhetoric down further. When Simon Coveney was appointed Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in April 2016 there were 4,592 individuals homeless and 1,786 children homeless. In the first eight months then that Coveney has been in office, there has been an 11.8 % rise in the number of individuals homeless.

Meanwhile there has been an 18.14% increase in the number of children that have become homeless. This suggests that since Coveney has taken office, families have been hardest hit by the ongoing housing crisis.

Coveney’s proclamation of the number of homeless adults being reduced “month on month” suggests that the number has fallen two months in a row which is not the case. Coveney’s breezy rhetoric aims to disguise the true extent of the crisis that has yet to properly assert itself.

In the first three months that Coveney took office, there was the largest three-month increase in national rent prices according to Daft’s August report. This followed by the second largest three-month increase in national rent prices in the following three months.

What then is the problem with the planned 4% cap on annual rents? Figures show in the past year it is rural rents that are rising exponentially with rent increases of up to 14.6% in Co. Louth and up to 13.4% in Co. Longford. What began two years ago as an urban housing crisis is now having knock-on effects elsewhere.

Yet despite this evidence, the proposed rent caps which are looking increasingly unlikely to be passed through the Dail, are focused on what are called ‘Rent Pressure Zones’. The prescriptive rent controls that could have prevented the hyper inflationary rents that have been present in Ireland’s major cities are being ignored as a solution for the burgeoning housing crisis nationwide.

Little wonder then that Coveney’s proposed rent caps have been met with such furor by Fianna Fail. In leaving rural areas out of the equation, Fine Gael have left themselves open to attacks of once again making policies that only protect urban areas and Fianna Fail know politically they can benefit from emphasising the blueshirts’ neglect.

In much of rural Ireland where economic activity has failed to pick up since the 2008 recession such rent increases are not being met by increases in people’s incomes. Fine Gael’s might have backtracked to include Limerick, Waterford and Galway, yet this still shows a refusal to acknowledge the extent of the housing crisis.

This is most chillingly reflected in the areas that in the past month have seen two homeless deaths. Both locations were outside the main urban thoroughfares of Ireland with the death of Paul Gorman in Co. Louth and Mariusz Ejdys in Co. Donegal.

hat this suggests is that this housing crisis is no longer centralised in the major cities of Ireland and that it is moving outwards to locations ill-equipped to deal with its consequences. With rural areas an average of 2c colder than cities, it is clear that the rural homeless are in an even more precarious situation when it comes to braving the elements.

Hiding behind Coveney’s evangelical message is a grim reality, that this housing crisis is only beginning to hit and is resulting in death on Irish streets.

The 4% annual rent cap will do nothing for those that are already homeless or those that are currently on its precipices.

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