Wednesday 19 June 2019

Editorial: 'Politicians must remember that Housing is a basic need'

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy
Editorial

Editorial

The impact of the housing shortage as reflected in the latest figures on rent increases raises a number of searing questions. The most pertinent of which is whether we wish to live in an economy or a society.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy took solace, while speaking on RTÉ yesterday, from the fact rents in Dublin rose by just 6.8pc in the past year.

Although this was the 31st consecutive quarter of growth, he seemed reassured. The rise was the "slowest" in recent years, he trilled.

Most would be nonplussed to find anything to enthuse about in a report - from Daft.ie - showing the number of properties for rent in the country has hit a record low, while rents are running to a record high.

An abject failure to bridge the gap between the shortage of affordable homes and the scale of need is having a corrosive impact on the lives of thousands. But you wouldn't think so, judging by official responses.

American economist Paul Krugman wrote: "For the amorality of the market economy is part of its essence, and cannot be legislated away."

He is correct, and no one wishes to "legislate it away". The market has its own rules.

But if its edges are allowed get too jagged it is up to governments to smooth them. A balance is essential for any civil society.

Successful governments recognise you supply the needs of people first, and the wants when you can afford to.

Housing is a fundamental need, yet rents are soaring beyond the range of normal income.

It seems extraordinary that a Government reliant on the votes of working people could be tilting the balance so much in favour of investors.

About 80,000 homes are needed in Dublin alone to stop rent increases, according to the survey.

Yet on the first day of this month there were only 2,700 homes available to rent nationwide.

The laws of supply and demand will not fix this any time soon. In any event, it's been said while rats and cockroaches live rigidly by competition under the laws of supply and demand, it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice. And this is the critical point to which the Government appears to be entirely oblivious.

Most people do not believe what is happening is fair nor in the interests of the greater good.

Not to be able to rent or buy a home is intolerable.

The average rent price listed is now €337 higher per month than the previous peak set back in 2008.

We know a key driver of the shortage is the relatively recent practise of vulture funds and institutional investors buying up apartment blocks.

As is spelled out elsewhere in today's paper, developers swoop on build-to-rent projects as the profits are higher. But what about the voters?

When it is considerably cheaper to pay a mortgage than to pay rent, the Government has a problem.

Economies will put goods and services at their centre. It is for societies and governments to prioritise the needs of people.

Irish Independent

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