The Blanket

Landlordism and the Housing Question

Liam O Ruairc • 25.09.02

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive published yesterday figures showing that there were more homeless people in the six counties than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Official figures show that 1.1% of total households in NI are accepted as being statutorily homeless; this compares to 0.5% in England and 0.9% in Scotland. A total of 12 694 households were registered as homeless in Northern Ireland last year. Families with children represent 41% of presenters and single persons represent 50% of presenters. However, this is only part of the picture. Those figures limit the housing problem to (a) homelessness and (b) people registered by the housing executive. The housing problem is much wider.

It all depends on how one defines "homelessness". There are a huge number of people not registered by the Housing Executive that could be considered homeless, as they do not have their own apartment/house because they are not rich enough to afford it, and are forced to live in "shared accomodation", sometimes in dreadful conditions. Those people are neglected by housing authorities because, unlike an unemployed alcoholic with children for instance, who would be a typical example of the type of person looked after by the social services, they would have a job and be single -therefore not a priority.

This situation is a pathological effect of the local housing culture. The state or private builders tended to build little houses, and there was more of a buying culture. On the continent or the USA, the housing culture was very different: mostly appartments were built, and the rent culture was much more widespread. It is only fairly recently that appartments were built in the greater Belfast area -think of the appartments on the Laganside, Malone, etc. Or in West Belfast, the appartments built in front of Casement Park. But those are luxury apartments that have to be bought! The whole problem is that housing is built for private profit of the speculators and the landlord class and not the needs of the people.

This writer found very surprising that there were so few apartments in the University area for example. Students and young professionals would constitute a good market for apartements. When discussing this question with an estate agent, I was told that it was financially far more profitable for the landlord class to let rooms in old houses than to rent new appartments. It requires fewer costs and gets more rent. Also, the contracts are more "flexible" and makes tenants more vulnerable to the whims of the landlord. If the landlord thinks it is more profitable to sell the house, then all are thrown out far more easily than if they were renting an individual appartment! As leeches and parasites that prey upon the people only to suck their financial resources, the landlords have no regards to the fundamental human right to a home!

In Ireland, there is a whole tradition of resistance against landlordism. From the Land League to the housing action committees of the Civil Rights days, it has alway been an issue that mobilised the people of no property. It is time to resurrect that tradition! A Republican Socialist policy of housing provision and adjustment of rents as well as a strategy for the liquidation of landlordism as a class is required. All people must enjoy suitable housing. Realisation of this demand requires the implementation of an all encompassing programme to build a large number of houses and apartments. So long as the housing problem is not fundamentally solved, the following immediate measures must be implemented:

* All surplus government buildings and empty private buildings must be put at the disposal of the masses as housing.

* Rents must be determined and implemented in proportion to the level of
workers wages and a portion of housing costs provided through government subsidy.

Those are only proposals. The Land League successfully mobilised the people through the "three Fs" (Fixity of tenure, etc), and there are no reasons why similar demands could not be formulated today. It is time for Republicans and Socialist to organise the struggle against the Landlord class.





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Start doing the things you think should be done, and start being what you think society should become. Do you believe in free speech? Then speak freely. Do you love the truth? Then tell it. Do you believe in an open society? Then act in the open. Do you believe in a decent and humane society? Then behave decently and humanely.
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Index: Current Articles

29 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Landlordism and the Housing Question
Liam O Ruairc


No Rest Days

Anthony McIntyre


The Meeting
Davy Carlin


It Shall All Come Tumbling Down
Sam Bahour


26 September 2002


IRA Volunteer Charlie Hughes and the Courage of the Brave
Brendan Hughes


A Question of Identity

Billy Mitchell


Road Kill
Liam O Ruairc


Pakistan and Military Dictators

Anthony McIntyre


Baghdad's Think-Tank Bomb
John Chuckman


Solidarity: 2 Notices
Sam Bahour and Fred Schlomka




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