A massive public house-building programme, which can provide homes for hundreds of thousands of people in housing need, was the demand of the 2017 May Day march in Dublin.
Addressing the rally outside Liberty Hall, leading housing campaigner, Fr Peter McVerry, said the government’s housing strategy is not working as homelessness is increasing and that it is time for “more radical measures”.
“The Government introduced its strategy nine months ago. Every single month since then the number of homeless people has risen and risen and risen,” he said.
He added that the only real long-term solution to the crisis was “an effective public home building programme”.
The demand for a public housing programme was reiterated by all other speakers. Community activist Rita Fagan harshly criticised plans by the Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, to make 800 state owned sites available to private companies to build properties, including some social housing.
She said: “That means it’s going to developers. On my estate, St Michael’s Estate, that’s 428 mortgage homes. We don’t want mortgage homes; we want public homes that people will be able to rent whether they’re in a job or not. We have to build a different vision.”
Such a vision of publicly built and managed housing, which will be available to a mix of income groups, is one that is the subject of intense discussions in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
At its biennial conference in early July, Congress will debate a motion which calls on the Government to “set out a national and county level plan to deliver the largest housing programme in the history of the State”. It adds that there must be “an immediate sharp increase in capital investment with the aim of reaching an annual output of 10,000 social affordable housing units per annum for the duration of the [housing] emergency”.
More details on the Congress proposals, including the major role local authorities could play in the direct provision of social housing will be contained in a major housing policy document prepared by Congress, SIPTU and the One Cork project to be released this month. The proposals envisage the creation of municipal housing task forces which can harness existing land, resources and skills within and across local authorities to commence an urgent refurbishment and house building programme in cities and communities across the country.
Elsewhere, thousands of trade unionists and activists also celebrated International Workers’ Day, including in Belfast, Derry and Cork. In Belfast, the Congress May Day March on Saturday, 29th April took the theme of ‘internationalism, solidarity and peace”. Among those who addressed the crowd in the Art College gardens were ICTU president, Brian Campfield, and chairperson Maria Morgan.
In Cork, trade unionists and activists marched on Monday 1st May with the housing crisis the main issue highlighted.