There has been a lot of spin about the recent eviction in Co. Roscommon. The fact of the matter is that the Central Bank stated in April 2018 that more than 29,000 mortgages are in arrears for at least two years. It estimates that more than half of these will end in repossessions by the banks. Roscommon is not a one-off.
A conservative estimate is that an average of three people live in each of these households. With 15,000 repossessions coming down the line and at least three people living in each home, this will increase the number of homeless by a further 45,000 citizens. There are already 10,000 citizens on the homeless list.
The Government, despite many “programmes,” initiatives and committees of investigation has failed to reduce the number of homeless—quite the opposite: the number continues to rise. It is quite possible that very soon this number will soar to 55,000 of our citizens without a home to live in.
The state has got off lightly up till now, as two-thirds of repossessions have resulted in the owners handing the keys back to the bank in what is termed “passive repossessions.” If a third of these repossessions that are due end in evictions, we are still looking at 5,000 Roscommons taking place in the near future.
It is reckoned that these repossessions will be concluded over the next five years, meaning an average of twenty families being put out on the side of the road every single week for the next five years.
With 17 per cent of these mortgages owned by vulture funds, this can spiral upwards very quickly as the banks continue to sell these loans. The mainstream media will not be able to keep the lid on this and tarnish five thousand families with the same brush that the McCann family were tarnished with in Co. Roscommon.
That fact of the matter is that the housing policies followed until now have totally failed. This is largely due to wage stagnation, rent increases, greed, cut-backs, precarious work, and property ownership being beyond the grasp of working people, leading to the commodification of homes and a situation where private rented accommodation is now the main form of tenure in our cities and towns—all subsidised by the state, to the tune of €15 billion over the last few years.
This public money must be used differently, in the public interest, not to line the pockets of landlords. To put this another way, housing policy has failed because of the contradictions in capitalism. Capitalism cannot ever provide the needs of society: it will always create division, inequality, and poverty; it is its very nature.
More of the same failed Government policy will only add to the homeless figures. We need a Government that puts the interests of the citizen first, not those of banks, landlords, property-owners, and vulture funds.
The CPI, as part of the campaign for public housing, has been consistently calling for an end to all economic evictions until such time as the state can provide a suitable alternative home for the individual or family concerned. Along with this, the state must build universally accessible public housing, and enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution, the right to a safe, secure home for all citizens of Ireland.
Only the public building and public ownership and management of housing will end the housing merry-go-round of mortgages, arrears, eviction, homelessness, and despair.
It is the failure of capitalism that is at the root of the housing crisis. The only alternative is socialism—not some temporary social-democratic sticking-plaster to patch things up within the system.
The system must be changed. It’s socialism or barbarism.