The housing crisis: Finding a scapegoat

The housing crisis for home buyers and private renters is in part due to the arrival of thousands of people into the country. The vast bulk of these people were born in Ireland but became 'economic' refugees and left for other countries to find work over the last few decades. The lucky ones did so legally but many thousands however were forced to enter the US as 'illegals'.

But an unfortunate consequence of the housing crisis is that it coincided with the arrival of a much smaller number of migrants who were not born in Ireland but arrived here as asylum -seekers. Unfortunate because this has provided the rich with a scapegoat. A strategy that has worked as even some well intentioned people blame these migrants for the housing crisis and suggest we should 'look after our own first'.

The real cause of the housing crisis is neither the tens of thousands of returning Irish born migrants nor the 15,000 or so asylum seekers. The reason housing is in short supply and expensive is because of the hoarding of land and super profits of a handful of speculators. Seizing the hoarded land from the speculators and building houses on it would bring house prices and rents rapidly down. [see The housing crisis - We name the Greedy Bastards]

What of the crisis for the tens of thousands trying to rent local authority housing? It would cost the state an estimated £1.9 billion to clear this housing list. There are at least three easy ways this money could be raised

1.The 1999 budget surplus could have paid the cost of clearing the housing list 2 and a half times over.

2.Tax evasion by big business and the rich cost the state over £3 billion during the 1990's.

3. Confiscating the profits of the land speculators

The bosses' magazine 'Business and Finance' calculates, using a Construction Industry Federation report, that "the Dublin land speculators would have taken in £957m in 1999 alone. Given that much of the land was acquired without zoning over thirty years ago much of that money is straight profit for the speculator". In comparison expenditure on refugees in 1999 cost the state only 10% of that figure.

Andrew Flood

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This edition is No60 published in September 2000