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9 - The Lost Decade of Social and Affordable Housing: Austerity and Marketisation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2021

Rory Hearne
Affiliation:
Maynooth University, Ireland
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Summary

The continuing homelessness crisis reflects the failure of Ireland's social housing policy over the past twenty five years to ensure an adequate supply of appropriate and secure accommodation for the various types of households in need. At the same time there has been an increasing reliance on procuring social housing by subsidising an insecure private rented sector. (McVerry et al, 2017: 9)

Austerity and marketisation in social housing

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein (2007) shows how, at times of major crises, neoliberal governments implement policies that would not be tolerated by the public in ‘normal’ times. Such ‘shock doctrine’ policies were evident in Ireland during the global economic crisis of 2008 and subsequent austerity period. The Fianna Fáil-led government of 2008–11 implemented austerity in order to bail out the collapsing financial institutions and enforce the cost of recession, adjustment and financial losses on to the state, public services and the public. Both that government and the subsequent Fine Gael–Labour government (2011–16), implemented austerity measures involving cumulative cuts to public spending and social welfare, and raised taxes of over €30 billion (over 20% of Ireland's gross domestic product). The social housing capital investment budget (the budget for building new social housing stock) suffered the second-highest proportionate budget reduction of any area of public spending during this period. It was reduced by 88% from €1.46 billion in 2008 to €167 million in 2014 (Byrne and Norris, 2017). This reflected the government, state and political bias against social housing investment and the placement of the largest burden of austerity on to the most vulnerable (including young people, those with disabilities, lone parents, disadvantaged communities and low-income households, all of whom suffered huge cuts to welfare and supports during austerity with consequent detrimental impacts on their housing situations). Table 9.1 shows the effective cessation of the social housing building programme in Ireland during the austerity period. This resulted in a ‘lost decade’ of social housing provision. This is one of the main reasons the Irish housing system suffered such a major shock with the emergence of a new homelessness crisis in 2013.

Type
Chapter
Information
Housing Shock
The Irish Housing Crisis and How to Solve It
, pp. 167 - 190
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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