The crisis underlines the lip-service we offer on the idea of social support and equity. Even though every bar is full of stories — many of them true — about individuals abusing State benefits, the housing scandal goes far beyond that well-rehearsed distraction.
We have a housing crisis because local authorities stopped building houses for the thousands of people who could not meet the ever-escalating demands of the market. Lotto land costs and developers’ expectations were very influential, too.
Despite all of those failings, it is sadly indicative of this society’s standards that the chairperson of the housing finance agency feels it necessary to warn that government proposals for affordable housing must not create unsustainable debt or facilitate the construction of below-par houses or apartments. Michelle Norris pointed out that there are about 100,000 people on social housing lists and that her agency has a loan book of some €3.6bn secured from European banks. These funds are used, in the main, to offer loans to housing agencies at low rates to build social housing.
There are immediate and pressing issues to resolve, but the opportunity should not be lost to demand exemplary standards in social housing and a far more aggressive taxation position on those who hoard building land.