Friday, June 12, 2015

12/6/15: Did Ireland Abandon Homeowners in Need?

An short, but informative article on the issue of mortgages arrears in Ireland:

The article correctly points to the lack of state engagement with the issue of long term arrears and the banks' strategy of extend-and-pretend in hope that rising house prices will maximise their returns on future foreclosures.

But the real, the main, point here is whether the Irish state has abandoned the homeowners in need. In my view - the Irish State was never concerned with the interests of homeowners. To think otherwise is to delude oneself once again into a fallacy of seeing the State as an agent concerned with the interests of the people.

Here are the excerpts from the recent study commissioned by the EU Parliament on changes in core rights accruing to individuals across a number of European nations in the wake of the post-crisis austerity programmes. The selection addresses the view of the reporters on Ireland in the context of the right to housing.

"Right to housing was affected in Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland and Spain in two
principal ways: with the increase of foreclosures and evictions and by the
interventions into the allocation of social housing and rental allowances." (page 15)

Note: this is not 'new' as in being indicative of an 'abandonment' of homeowners - rather, this is an assessment of systemic, long-term changes enacted by the State. And it covers both: private structure of homeownership and rental markets, and public provision of social housing.

"At the same time, in Belgium, Cyprus and Ireland, rental allowances or the
availability of social housing are inadequate and insufficient to respond to the needs of people in the wake of the crisis" (page 123)

"The Irish social housing budget was cut by 36% in 2011 and by another 26% in 2012. At the same time, with the loss of jobs and turbulence in the labour market, it is not surprising that the number of households on waiting lists for social housing increased by 75% between 2008 and 2011, i.e. from 56,000 to 98,000. Moreover, it is estimated that in 2011, approximately 5,000 people were homeless in Ireland compared to 3,157 people in 2008. The continued rise in rents, particularly in the last 12 months, is seen as contributing to the problem498, while rent supplements, having been reduced by 20% to 25%, are becoming increasingly inadequate with the severe budget cuts. Certain vulnerable groups have been adversely affected in Ireland. Travellers have
experienced 85% spending cuts on housing since 2008. Moreover, resource allocations for asylum seeker accommodation were reduced by 13% in 20115. In 2008, 36% of all single-parent households were on the waiting list for social housing and one fifth of all people who relied on a rent supplement to meet their rental costs were single parents. The capital assistance scheme, which used to house people with disabilities, was also reduced from EUR 145 million in 2010, to EUR 50 million in 2012" (page 125)

So here you have it - the EU report does not document an act of abandonment as a departure from past policy. It suggests systemic, long term trend toward such abandonment. In other words, the report findings imply a lack of concern or interest on behalf of the State to secure rights to housing from the start of the crisis, not a sudden change of heart.

Full EU report is available here: EUP (2015: PE 510.021) "The impact of the crisis on fundamental rights across Member States of the EU Comparative analysis". Study for the Libe Committee, Policy Department C: Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, European Parliament. February 2015: 
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