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Among the key findings from the National Social Monitor - European Edition are that quality of housing, the burden of housing costs, financial distress, difficulty in making ends meet and the environment are key issues in Ireland and across the European Union.  As we face into European Elections in May these issues are certain to feature strongly.

The impact of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has highlighted the weaknesses in both Ireland’s social and economic structures. One such area is housing, particularly for those in communal and cramped accommodation who cannot social distance, self-isolate or, in some cases, avail of adequate washing facilities.  In the latest episode of our podcast, Social Justice Matters, we chat (remotely) to Orla Hegarty, Architect and Lecturer in the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy in UCD, to discuss housing policy, construction safety and COVID-19, and the lessons to be learned for housing from this crisis.

The Central Bank issued its quarterly Residential Mortgage Arrears & Repossession Statistics report for Q4 2018.  While the number of mortgages in arrears has again decreased, the rise in sales to non-bank entities of both performing and non-performing loans continues to put homeowners at risk.

The release announcing the latest social housing output data last week would indicate that Rebuilding Ireland is exceeding its targets in the provision of social housing to those on low incomes.  Unfortunately, the reality is that 45% of local authorities failed to meet their build targets and reliance on the private rented market to provide answers continues.

The most recent Report shows that, while the rate of rent inflation may now be slowing, rents are still higher than they were before the Recession, with the average national rent reaching €1,347 per month.  Rebuilding Ireland, the Government's main housing policy document, relies heavily on the private rented sector as a sort of 'societal cure all', however this reliance (supported through subsidies and tax reliefs) is only serving to drive up rents until they are beyond the reach of many households.  Add to that the Minister's latest directive, that families who turn down more two social housing options will be suspended from the housing list for five years, and we clearly have a Government out of touch with the reality of low income households.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiol & Community Health has found that ‘housing tenure, cost burden and desire to stay in own home’ are all associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker associated with infection and stress.  With the number of households in private rented accommodation continuing to rise in Ireland, what does this mean for future generations and what policy responses are needed?

700,000 on healthcare waiting lists, 500,000 homes without broadband, over 11,000 people homeless – a result of Government policy failing to tackle causes - Social Justice Ireland publishes National Social Monitor Winter 2018.

In order to improve the wellbeing of everyone in society, at all stages of the life cycle, it is vital that our policies address the causes of problems rather than their symptoms only.  It is through this lens that Social Justice Ireland examines the ten policy areas in the National Social Monitor. 

On Thursday, 4th October 2018, the Dáil passed a motion to declare housing and homelessness a national emergency.  The motion, following a demonstration by over 10,000 people and brought by Solidarity – People before Profit, called on Government to declare this emergency and to do something to increase the supply of affordable, sustainable homes.

On Wednesday (26th September 2018), the Housing Agency published its now annual Summary of Housing Assessments for 2018. Figures gathered in June of this year show that 71,858 households were assessed as being in need of social housing, compared to 85,799 in 2017. However, while the apparent reduction of 13,941 has been heralded by Minister for State Damien English as “a positive sign of the success of the Rebuilding Ireland Actions Plan so far”, the truth is that the housing crisis is worsening as Government continues to look to the private sector for solutions.