It’s slums or the street as housing crisis deepens


The Dublin government is being urged to declare a national emergency following the identification of landlord-operated slums and another rise in homelessness in the face of a chronic shortage of accommodation.

According to the Department of Housing, 8,374 people are in emergency accommodation at the end of September. It means the number of homeless people in Ireland has risen by more than a hundred since last month’s update, and the number of homeless children has risen by 76.

Demand for new dwellings is estimated to be almost to 50,000 per year, according to a report on the housing shortage by the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland. Only a tiny fraction of these are currently planned for construction. Meanwhile, figures obtained by Sinn Fein indicate the number of those on public housing waiting lists have increased by almost ten per cent in the past year.

Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) chief executive Anthony Flynn warned the 26 County State is failing to get to grips with the housing crisis.

He said it “can’t be acceptable” for the government to preside over monthly rises in homelessness numbers without calling an emergency sitting of parliament and declaring a national emergency.

“A further increase in the number of homeless people in Ireland is a startling indictment on the government,” he said.

“Month-on-month, we have seen consistent increases in those presenting as homeless with no clear intervention to prevent these people becoming homeless in the first place... This is a National Emergency and needs to be treated as such - the state is failing.”

While rents have soared to extortionate levels in most urban areas, rental conditions for many have plummeted.

This week, an RTE investigative documentary highlighted slumlords who are taking advantage of the property crisis. Severely over-crowded and dangerous rental accommodation were exposed by the documentary, ‘Nightmare to Let’, broadcast on Thursday night.

The Dublin Fire Brigade was forced to immediately close three buildings following the undercover investigation. It showed more than 120 people were squeezed into the three properties in conditions one tenant described as like “living in a submarine”.

Other properties featured extortionate rents, including one in County Cork costing more than 600 euro per month to share a building infested with mice and mould, with holes in the floor and no hot water.

Unscrupulous landlords are seeking to maximise profit by flouting health, safety and fire regulations. Most of those forced to live in these conditions are low-paid foreign nationals who lack the resources to challenge well-connected, wealthy landlords.

Robin Knox, a fire safety expert, described the conditions as the worst he had ever seen. “This takes the biscuit. This is the worst I’ve ever seen. Sixteen beds in one room - words can’t explain how potentially dangerous this is,” he said.

Though local authorities have a responsibility to inspect private rented properties, just 4 per cent of the 325,000 nationally are inspected and the legislation is generally ignored.

Aideen Hayden of the housing charity Threshold said on the programme: “These are situations that should not be tolerated in a humane society and it is an absolute failure on our part as a people.”

Sinn Fein’s housing spokesman, Eoin O Broin, call for landlords to prove that they are complaint with all the relevant minimum standards and regulations. “At the same time the Minister must today make a commitment to increase resources and funding for local authority inspections,” he said.

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