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Housing

'Building a New Social Contract – Policy Recommendations’ contains more than eighty specific policy recommendations that would go a considerable direction towards a new social contract to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of everyone and ensure that a no-one is left behind as our economy and society recovers from the impact of Covid-19.

The provision of adequate and appropriate accommodation should be a key element of a new Social Contract. Here we look at how Budget 2021 could begin the process of a new, sustainable, housing strategy.

As housing policy continues on an increasingly private pathway, more of us are accommodated through the private rented sector.  We need to redesign this sector to reflect its increasing use a tenure of choice and necessity to protect the rights of tenants and to make it more affordable.  We need to uncouple our basic housing need from the boom-bust cycle of the property market.  One mechanism to address affordability is to introduce a cost rental system to scale.

According to the Social Housing Needs Assessments 2019, published in December 2019, there were 68,693 households on the waiting list for social housing, presenting as a decrease of 4.4 per cent on the previous year.  However, the truth is that the housing crisis is worsening as Government continues to look to the private sector for solutions. Time to set a new social housing target of 20 per cent of all housing stock.

Housing in Ireland has been mired in controversy for decades – from tenement slums to planning irregularities, and from substandard housing to the institutionalisation of households in emergency accommodation and Direct Provision.  Social Justice Ireland has previously advocated for a 5-Pillar Framework for a new Social Contract.  These Pillars are a Vibrant Economy; Decent Services and Infrastructure; Just Taxation; Good Governance; and Sustainability.  In this article, we explore what those five Pillars might contain in the context of housing, as an example.

Ireland and much of the rest of the world is facing into a major economic recession as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The circumstances and causes of this recession are very different from those that caused the recession in 2008/2009, but there are still lessons that can and should be learned. One of those lessons relates to government’s fiscal response. Faced with a recession that will exceed any in living memory, government must act on a scale that exceeds anything implemented during the financial crisis of a decade ago.

The most pressing piece of health advice, apart from washing your hands, to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for social distancing.  But for thousands of people living in emergency homeless accommodation, Direct Provision, refuges and Travellers living in cramped conditions, social distancing just isn’t an option.  The announcement yesterday of 650 spaces being made available is a welcome step, but doesn’t go nearly far enough.  There are over 245,000 vacant properties across Ireland.  Property website Daft.ie reported a 13% increase in rental advertisements this month.  Now is the time to utilise emergency powers and #MoveTheVulnerableOut.

Additional supply of affordable homes is a key part of addressing the housing crisis, but what of those in precarious housing situations?  In this article we look at those on the social housing waiting lists and those in mortgage difficulty.

The expansion and contraction of capital spending on housing by central government demonstrates just how volatile this basic necessity for low-income families is, and how responsive to economic shocks. 

Social justice matters. That is why Social Justice Ireland publishes our annual socio-economic review. This book is about charting a course to a fairer Ireland. Social Justice Matters 2020 provides an analysis of the present situation on a wide range of issues and identifies a programme of initiatives and policies that can address our challenges in an integrated and sustainable manner.

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