A new campaign for public housing

The Campaign for Public Housing was launched in Dublin at the end of October.

The CPI is one of a number of socialist organisations, tenants’ associations, community activists and other groups that make up the broad alliance within the campaign. The campaign was launched in Dublin, but it is planned to expand it throughout the country in the coming weeks as the crisis in housing reaches disastrous proportions. It must be solved once and for all.

The Campaign for Public Housing will bring us into conflict with the EU, because of its rules on competition in the Growth and Stability Pact.

We need to look at an all-Ireland campaign for public housing, as the crisis is equally bad in the North.

The Campaign for Public Housing is not for tweaking, modifying or reforming the present housing policy in the hope of making it easier and less painful for citizens to afford and obtain a home: it is for transforming housing from a profit-making commodity into a right for every citizen to have a secure home.

We are challenging the hegemonic neo-liberal ideology and its economic base, which is at the root of the crisis. The state has abandoned the citizens’ need for a roof over their heads to the private sector, whose only interest is profit. It does this by subsidising the cost of renting or buying a home through various grants and subsidies, such as the housing assistance payment (HAP), rental accommodation scheme (RAS), leasing, and various tax incentives. By paying the difference between the contribution of the tenant and the rent demanded by the profiteers, the subsidies and rent assistance go directly into the pockets of the private sector as profit.

The state has also sought to attract housing associations, including real-estate investment trusts (REITs) and transnational corporations, into the rental market through tax incentives and by artificially inflating rents in the private sector through not investing in public housing. (This policy is not unique to Ireland: it is now being introduced all over the capitalist world.)

It is all part of the policy decision of the state to privatise and commodify all services, instead of providing for the needs of the citizens as part of the social contract. And it is not only in housing, as we have already seen with the attempt to introduce water charges and the attack on the public transport system and its workers last year, coupled with the continuous selling off of our natural resources and the privatising of our public services. Capital continuously seeks new commodities and markets to exploit in the never-ending search for more and increasing profits.

Capitalism never can and never will build enough houses to guarantee a safe, secure home for all our citizens.

A sustained building programme of public housing, built, managed and owned by the state, will bring to an end the failed housing policies and end the crisis once and for all. It will also stabilise and reduce property prices and rents, as the abundant supply of public housing will end shortages, congestion, and homelessness.

The public housing stock will be a state asset and a public resource that will pay for itself over time, both financially and socially, as the precarious and uncertain nature of private rents, unaffordable mortgages and fluctuating interest rates will be removed permanently from the equation. With the profit element removed, this wealth will no longer be hoarded by the elite but will be put into general circulation, to be spent on the other necessities of life required by citizens.

We do not seek an accommodation with capitalism, which always provides only for a temporary solution so as to confuse, frustrate and placate the working class. Our demand is for transforming housing into the socialist alternative, that is, public housing for all citizens, universally available on the grounds of need, as a right afforded to all our citizens.

We encourage all like-minded people and groups to become involved in the Campaign for Public Housing and help bring an end to the permanent crisis in housing.