Northern Ireland Housing Executive published yesterday
figures showing that there were more homeless people
in the six counties than in the rest of the United
Kingdom. Official figures show that 1.1% of total
households in NI are accepted as being statutorily
homeless; this compares to 0.5% in England and 0.9%
in Scotland. A total of 12 694 households were registered
as homeless in Northern Ireland last year. Families
with children represent 41% of presenters and single
persons represent 50% of presenters. However, this
is only part of the picture. Those figures limit the
housing problem to (a) homelessness and (b) people
registered by the housing executive. The housing problem
is much wider.
all depends on how one defines "homelessness".
There are a huge number of people not registered by
the Housing Executive that could be considered homeless,
as they do not have their own apartment/house because
they are not rich enough to afford it, and are forced
to live in "shared accomodation", sometimes
in dreadful conditions. Those people are neglected
by housing authorities because, unlike an unemployed
alcoholic with children for instance, who would be
a typical example of the type of person looked after
by the social services, they would have a job and
be single -therefore not a priority.
situation is a pathological effect of the local housing
culture. The state or private builders tended to build
little houses, and there was more of a buying culture.
On the continent or the USA, the housing culture was
very different: mostly appartments were built, and
the rent culture was much more widespread. It is only
fairly recently that appartments were built in the
greater Belfast area -think of the appartments on
the Laganside, Malone, etc. Or in West Belfast, the
appartments built in front of Casement Park. But those
are luxury apartments that have to be bought! The
whole problem is that housing is built for private
profit of the speculators and the landlord class and
not the needs of the people.
writer found very surprising that there were so few
apartments in the University area for example. Students
and young professionals would constitute a good market
for apartements. When discussing this question with
an estate agent, I was told that it was financially
far more profitable for the landlord class to let
rooms in old houses than to rent new appartments.
It requires fewer costs and gets more rent. Also,
the contracts are more "flexible" and makes
tenants more vulnerable to the whims of the landlord.
If the landlord thinks it is more profitable to sell
the house, then all are thrown out far more easily
than if they were renting an individual appartment!
As leeches and parasites that prey upon the people
only to suck their financial resources, the landlords
have no regards to the fundamental human right to
Ireland, there is a whole tradition of resistance
against landlordism. From the Land League to the housing
action committees of the Civil Rights days, it has
alway been an issue that mobilised the people of no
property. It is time to resurrect that tradition!
A Republican Socialist policy of housing provision
and adjustment of rents as well as a strategy for
the liquidation of landlordism as a class is required.
All people must enjoy suitable housing. Realisation
of this demand requires the implementation of an all
encompassing programme to build a large number of
houses and apartments. So long as the housing problem
is not fundamentally solved, the following immediate
measures must be implemented:
All surplus government buildings and empty private
buildings must be put at the disposal of the masses
Rents must be determined and implemented in proportion
to the level of
workers wages and a portion of housing costs provided
through government subsidy.
are only proposals. The Land League successfully mobilised
the people through the "three Fs" (Fixity
of tenure, etc), and there are no reasons why similar
demands could not be formulated today. It is time
for Republicans and Socialist to organise the struggle
against the Landlord class.
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