Martina Hegarty from North Mayo Pyrite Group at the Homes for All housing rally in Castlebar. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

Mayo group calls for radical action on housing

An activist group in Mayo is calling for serious action to tackle Ireland’s housing crisis.

The Mayo Homeless & Housing Coalition, a collection of trade unions, left political groups, charities and other organisations, staged a rally in Castlebar, calling on the government to tackle the rising crisis throughout Mayo and the country.

Earlier this month, the government announced the ‘Housing for All’ plan for Ireland’s housing crisis to improve Ireland’s housing system and deliver more homes of all types for people with different housing needs.

But Joe Daly, of People Before Profit and a spokesperson for the group, has called the government’s new plan “woefully inadequate”.

“We think that the whole premise of the plan is depending on the private market to solve what is a problem caused by the private market,” he told The Connaught Telegraph.

“Even in terms of affordability for example, an affordable house is €250,000. If you look at the Central Bank rules to actually qualify for a private mortgage in the market, you can only get three and a half times your income. So, on that basis you would need an income of €71,000 just to get an affordable home.

“Now, to bridge the gap, the government is introducing this shared equity scheme which we know will actually cause massive inflation in house prices, which we’ve seen in Britain.

“We’ve also seen examples of this when Fine Gael brought out the Help to Buy scheme. Immediately, developers put on the price of the house the subsidy that was being given to first time buyers.

“The government is saying they’re going to give 30% of the value of the house to buyers. We believe that developers will add that on to the cost of the house, which will cause massive inflations.

“In terms of rents, there’s no cap on rents, there’s no ban on evictions, nothing on long-term leasing, nothing on the mica and pyrite homeowners. We know that there’s up to 7,000 homes in Mayo and Donegal suffering from the mica crisis and we think the quarries should pay their fair share.

“On every conceivable issue, this Housing for All plan falls flat on its face.”

The group is also calling for a referendum to amend the constitution for housing to be a right.

“In Sweden, Spain, and Belgium, they all have the right to housing. Provinces in Germany, Berlin, has a right to housing. It has really transformed the situation. We need to stop thinking of housing as a speculative commodity for private investment and profit and we need to see it as a human right for security, for safety and for a home.

"If we do that, we’ll transform the system. In order to meet that, we’ll have to have a referendum to put that in the constitution. The government will cry that we can’t interfere with property rights but I haven’t seen Sweden turn communist yet.

“We’re saying to really solve this crisis, we need a whole new kind of public housing on public land. We need to have a specific State agency and construction company that will do that en masse.

“The Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael governments have privatised public housing for a start and they’ve turned it into the housing of last resort.

"The threshold is really, really low at €26,000 so if you’re on the median wage of €30,000, you don’t qualify for a social home. We want to open that up so if you’re middle or low income,you can qualify for a proper public housing system like they have in parts of Europe.”

A national protest, ‘Raise the Roof’, is scheduled to take place in Dublin on October 2.

Anyone interested in attending can contact the group on Facebook or can contact Joe Daly on his Facebook page.