Resolving the housing crisis - Our faith in convention has failed

AT the dawning, unfolding stages of a scandal, it is usual to suggest that the majority of those in an organisation facing earth-shattering allegations are innocent and that only a tiny minority of their colleagues are wrongdoers. 

The innocent-until-proven-guilty theory is cloned with the a-few-rotten-apples hope because we struggle to conceive that an institution or a process once held in the highest regard should have rendered ineffective low standards or corruption.

The first allegations of clerical child abuse were so shocking it was impossible to grasp the scale of the cancer.

A few monstrous, deviant clerics were blamed for the actions of many.

Just so with the gardaí. Who would have thought that the casual-but-formalised dishonesty behind the drink- driving tests fiasco was standard practice?

Who could have imagined that senior bankers’ indifference to ethics would lead to tracker mortgage fraud?

That scam, after all, could not have happened without the collusion of so many “respectable” ground-floor bank workers.

Sooner or later organisations, rather than individuals, systems rather than policies, are rightly identified as the cause of grand failure.

We have passed that point with the housing crisis.

The initial response was to bemoan the fact that builders or local authorities were not providing enough new homes to meet ever-increasing demand. And so it was.

That straight bat worked for a while but now, as the latest report shows that rents rose by an average of 11.2% in the year to September to reach record highs, the initiatives designed to resolve the crisis all seem inadequate to the challenge — especially as they are framed in the market conventions that brought us to this sorry, shameful point.

The average monthly rent nationwide during the third quarter of 2017 was €1,198, the sixth quarter in a row a record was set.

The rate of inflation represents a slight slowdown from the rate recorded in the second quarter of 2017 — 11.8%.

These figures reflect an environment where a home is being pushed beyond the reach of many individuals and families.

They represent a threat to social cohesion greater than another other issue facing this society yet there are no street protests or highly-orchestrated, emotional public campaigns.

The figures are the coldest reading of the supply-and- demand theories that we afford such weight and legitimacy in how we conduct our affairs.

However, the 8,374 people recorded as homeless in Ireland must see it differently.

They are the human casualties in the playing out of the mixture of property rights which we still regard as supreme, the profit aspiration behind virtually every enterprise, the very controlled management of capital and a political class more in thrall to discredited systems that they are shamed by this tremendous, shameful social and political failure.

It is as if they imagine the same market principles can apply to housing as those that apply to the Christmas toy market, where supply may be contrived to stimulate demand.

Something radical is urgently needed to break the logjam created by traditional business and politics creeds. Standing idly by, as another generation declared, is not an option.

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