Last Wednesday’s Raise the Roof protest saw about 10,000 people turn out in demonstration against the housing crisis. The crowd were calling for change in housing legislation and tenant’s rights, before the Dáil vote this week. Over 6,000 of the protestors were students and were joined by trade unions, housing and homeless charities, NUJ, politicians as well as civil society groups. The march went from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House.
In Ireland there is currently close to 10,000 people homeless and a further 110,000 on the housing list. This comes as a result of failing government policies in recent years, policies that served only served interest of investors, developers and landlords and has lead rents spiraling out of control due to the lack of social housing being built and lack of planning and control within the private sector. Although this is a societal issue, it is having a serious impact on students. We are already paying second the highest rental fees in Ireland. According to Union of Students Ireland President Siona Cahill on the night of the 2016 census, 429 students marked themselves as homeless and she went on further to say that “We would also have cause to believe that there is a significant number of students who are not accepting third level places.”
Students are unfortunately being priced out of their education due to the fact that they cannot afford accommodation across the country. Other students are facing grueling commutes because they cannot find or afford housing. This is not only an issue about cost or availability but an issue of quality. Students also have to deal with challenges such as sub-standard damp conditions, over-crowded and often run down accommodation, no deposit protection and students living in digs with families which have little protection in the form of tenant’s rights.
Students renting can also be vulnerable to rogue and unscrupulous landlords especially students who are renting for the first time. Therefore, it is important to understand your rights as a tenant something which you can do by contacting your SU or the USI have an accommodation guide which include your rights as a tenant.
Last week’s protests were purposely timed to put pressure on an upcoming Dáil vote on the housing crisis which essentially needs backing from Fianna Fail who in 2017 united with the government to defeat the Right to Housing Bill by 73 votes to 37. The upcoming bill signed by 47 TD’s from much of the left calls for:
- A declaration of a housing crisis;
- Increase in capital spending on housing to €2.3 billion in Budget 2019;
- End of homelessness causing evictions;
- Rent Controls;
- Increase the proportion of public housing in private developments.
The USI is calling on all political parties to support the cross-party motion to take immediate action on rent increase and to invest in affordable purpose-built housing for students. As Siona Cahill states, “The government have been incredibly weak on housing. I am not confident that significant are being made unless we absolutely challenge them and keep up the pressure to make sure social housing is built.”
Following the protest, members of Take Back the City stated that it is only through this type of pressure from the masses of people affected by the crisis that will force the policy changes.
Maynooth Housing Action will be out with an information stall this Monday 8th of October at the town square, stop by if you are facing any housing difficulties. You can also find them on Facebook: Maynooth Housing Action.
Among the speakers at the protest were Sheila Nunan, Congress President of ICTU; Orla O’Connor, co-director of Together4Yes; Senator Frances Black; Keith Troy of the Homeless & Housing Coalition, and Peter McVerry among others including Damien Dempsey who performed at the demonstration outside Leinster House.