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(en) Ireland, No Masters #1 - Housing For Profit

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 5 Oct 2004 09:35:08 +0200 (CEST)

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Its that time of year again, when a vast majority of students realise
one simple thing: we are being ripped off by our landlords. You've
probably couch surfed for weeks, or ran around trying to open
accounts in what ever bank it is that will extend an immediate
over draft. Whatever you've done, you can be sure you'll be fucked
over once a month for the coming year for a substantial amount of
cash. And it feels like plain fucking legalised robbery.
If you are lucky enough to receive the pathetic grant, you'll realise
that with average rents well over '350 and spiralling, the state is
leaving you ripped off. The options facing you are living at home
and commuting long distances. Skipping classes and working long
hours to pay rent. Or simply living in over crowded and cramped
gaffs in the 'student land' of Rathmines or the like. None of these
options are pleasant, and nothing is more distasteful than the
accommodation crisis so many of us are forced into because we
don't have access to the cash to by pass it.

One thing is certain, this crisis is artificial, the resources are there,
its an issue of how they are being used. We are being held to
ransom for higher rents, at the threat of having no where to stay,
landlords inflate rents on their own personal whims. Buildings
through out the city are left derelict as developers take advantage
of the fact that property prices have risen a staggering 166% over
the past six years, while your usual bank interest rate is around
6% for investment. The state which has long since defended the
interests of these cartels, refuses to move against the derelicts and
only a tiny percentage of them are forced to pay the 3% tax the
law prescribes.

Why should we expect any different, senior council officials have
acted as paid advisors/ facilitators to property hoarders for years.
Lest anybody should question the link between house builders and
Fianna Fail, the names of Burke, Lawlor and Reilly are clear
examples of the corruption involved. Ray Burke received over £1
million from a single builder alone. Liam Lawlor, acting as an
extremely well paid agent for various builders, distributed massive
amounts of cash to corrupt politicians and council officials in
return for the re-zoning of designated tracts of land owned by his
paymasters. Paddy Reilly, a former election agent of Bertie Ahern,
was involved in the cheap purchase of a large number of premises
in central Dublin and renovated them for resale.

The recent revelation that over 20 people named in the Ansbacher
fraud were builders and developers should come as no surprise.
Neither should the fact that while the state provided 6,133 social
houses last year, 62,686 private ones went up. So before its even
finalised the state have broken the last bout of social partnership.
A telling indictment of who it really benefits. Any attempt to reach
similar agreements with authorities ends up in similar farce.
Where as UCD have promised to build more student
accommodation for years, they haven't bothered and just let the
issue slide. Instead they are happy to do land swaps with
developers, and sell off land for private apartment complexes
instead of build student housing.

The worst part about it all is how the issue is being dealt with by
our representatives. They seem only happy you just redirect us to
the same websites we've been scouring for gaffs already. Attempts
to even tackle the issue politically consist of tokenistic stunts at
the usual time and place every year, expect tents, posturing and
not a whole lot more. These is no real attempt made to challenge
the monopolistic behaviour of the landlords, no attempt to link in
the fact that more than just students are being fucked over, but
anyone who can't afford housing at extortionate rates is.

Last summer a group of young people squatted one of these
derelicts, making a home and a social centre in the process of
renovating it. The landlord didn't even notice, he had been in
South Africa for over a decade, and had forgotten about this four
story Georgian building on Leeson St. This happens all over the
city: the next time you take the LUAS, have a gawk and see the
derelicts fly pat, left abandoned until property prices shoot up. Of
course these kids were thrown out by the cops.

The state is there to protect the hoarders, introducing the 2002
Anti-Trespass Act to move travellers off illegal halting sites, but
potentially directing it against squatters as well. The core of the
issue is how our society sees property, at the moment it is an
individual thing. Housing ties into everything else, it is one of
those ridiculous situations that our rulers persist in forcing on us.
The notion that one class of people have a right to deprive another
of a home, for the sake of making money playing the property
market. Instead, like education, housing should be treated as
social thing not something to be exploited for the private gain of
an enriched few.

Once my own landlord demanded bank receipts off us because he
has so much money coming into his accounts from various
houses he was failing to keep track of it, and this was in a house
where sellotape was used on the windows to keep the dampness
out. We are being ripped off and its about bloody time we did
something about it.

Usually, we seek the easiest option. When it comes to housing the
easiest option is working more hours, or getting into more debt.
Individual acts that sort the problems temporarily for ourselves,
but allow them, to fester and worsen. We are increasingly being
pushed to a situation where these individual solutions are exerting
an unprecedented pressure on us. When that happens, we need to
realise the political problem that lies at the root of this housing
crisis. To be blunt, property is theft and nothing is more
outrageous than leaving buildings dormant around the city to
make a quick kill on the market when others go homeless.

If we want to do something about the housing crisis facing us, we
need to start facing it head on. Highlighting the ridiculous nature
of it, how buildings lie dormant to jack up rent prices, who's doing
this and what we can do to sort it. In three words. Squat the lot.

This article is from No Masters issue 1

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