Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 March 2021
Housing has always been a deeply political issue given its centrality to people's lives. However, how it is politicised and treated, and its prominence in political and public debate, has changed over time. Housing is now becoming a political battleground of the 21st century between big finance, government and citizens seeking affordable housing. Cities are ‘ground zero’, the most advanced and intense front of the housing battle. As housing has become marketised and financialised by the global wealthy and investment funds, those excluded have become angry and are pushing back, asserting that housing should be affordable and available to all as a human right. From New York to Berlin, Barcelona to Dublin, protests are erupting, encouraging people to think differently about housing and forcing politicians to change policies. New housing movements highlight the human cost of the housing crisis, challenging global investors and proposing changes to local and national government policy. Ireland has been at the forefront of the new wave of housing campaigns. Irish people are angry at unprecedented levels of homelessness and the political failure to provide affordable homes. Housing has moved from being of peripheral concern to policy makers and government to becoming the number one political and public issue of concern, as growing sections of the population are drawn into a widening crisis, and new protests are putting housing to the top of the political agenda.
New housing protests are challenging evictions and rising homelessness, and the scandal of derelict properties and high rents, and are campaigning for the use of vacant public land for affordable homes for all and the inclusion of the right to housing in the Constitution and law.
New housing protests in Ireland
A housing movement has been increasingly active in Ireland since 2014, responding to growing homelessness, and rental and mortgage arrears crises. Activity initially involved a number of small grassroots groups working incrementally to develop strategies and tactics around how to tackle the housing crisis in Ireland. A larger housing social movement erupted sporadically in 2016 over plans to demolish and redevelop Apollo House, a former government office block, and then in a more sustained manner in 2018 with the Take Back the City and Raise the Roof campaigns.