Housing: The worm in the apple

Last Monday’s Dublin City Council meeting saw a heated and passionate debate on housing. Dublin City Council’s housing manager introduced plans for housing development on council-owned land. This plan was first discussed in July. The proposal would allow council management to seek expressions of interest from developers for certain pieces of council land. When I first read the report alarms bells went off. To me it read like a blast from the past, another public private partnership. Public Private Partnerships should be reduced to foot notes in history books, never to be used again. Having read and re-read the report, having debated it at length, having met management I was still not convinced that we should be advertising for expressions of interest to build on publicly owned land without first outlining exactly what we wanted. It was like light touch regulation all over again.

This city’s is in the throws of a housing crisis. City Councillors will disagree on many things but one thing we all agree on is that the ques for our clinics are growing every week because of the housing crisis. Building homes must be a priority for this council and indeed the other three councils in Dublin. We must ensure that any housing plan for the city meets the needs of its citizens not the needs of developers. For far too long the market was driven by tax breaks for developers, this has created profits for some and misery for many others.

To simply reject the plan was non runner. We need housing and we have to be imaginative in how we get it. I had hoped we could at least stitch in targets and To simply reject the plan was non runner. We need housing and we have to be imaginative in how we get it. I had hoped we could at least stitch in targets and objectives in this plan. Sinn Féin tabled a number of constructive amendments. These were an attempt to put targets in the proposal for social and affordable housing, commitment to rent control and guaranteed senior citizen housing. We also wanted to ensure that discrimination against rent allowance tenants would be prohibited. We wanted a commitment on a social clause and to the establishment of a Municipal Housing Authority which would be able to finance, design, build and mange social housing for Dublin.

Unfortunately for residents languishing on housing lists or those struggling to pay ever increasing rents Labour and Fine Gael councillors blocked rent control. They also opposed our amendments to maximise social housing. Surprisingly Labour and Fine Gael also opposed prohibiting discrimination against rent allowance.

Labour seems to be reverting back to the failed policy of light touch regulation for developers. We can not allow a return to these dark days. This approach has failed to provide sufficient housing for this city. This is why we need impassioned debates on housing. I hope Sinn Féin continue to be the worm in the apple. Churning up the difficult questions, providing some of the difficult answers. But never just accepting it can not be done.