The an­swer to this squalor is mass build­ing

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

IT is hard to be­lieve peo­ple in Dublin, in 2017, are liv­ing in such con­di­tions. The house in Crum­lin that the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day vis­ited this week is not only un­fit for hu­man habi­ta­tion, it is also a firetrap. Based on the small rooms that our re­porter man­aged to see, each of which con­tained four beds, it is pos­si­ble that up to 52 peo­ple lived there at any one time, gen­er­at­ing rental in­come of €13,000 a month.

Dublin City Coun­cil went to court this week to have the house va­cated. Mr Jus­tice Noo­nan agreed and gave the ten­ants 48 hours to leave what ef­fec­tively is a war­ren of in­ter­con­nected rooms and shared liv­ing space, mostly lit by naked bulbs. There were even mat­tresses on the floor in some rooms.

Bear in mind, though, that un­like in some re­cent cases in the UK, the peo­ple liv­ing there were not slaves be­ing held in poor con­di­tions. They were mostly Brazil­ian stu­dents, vol­un­tar­ily pay­ing €250 a month each to live just one rung above squalor.

But, you might say, they’re stu­dents and this house sounds lit­tle dif­fer­ent to a youth hos­tel, the likes of which our own chil­dren might stay in as they travel around the world in a gap year.

In­deed, isn’t is pre­cisely the sort of shared ac­com­mo­da­tion of which Hous­ing Min­is­ter Eoghan Mur­phy spoke of this week as a plan for the fu­ture?

The key dif­fer­ence is that hos­tels are reg­u­lated com­mer­cial busi­nesses. They have named own­ers, who are ac­count­able for the likes of hy­giene and – es­pe­cially – fire safety and they are of­ten sub­ject to unan­nounced and fre­quent in­spec­tions.

Not this house. And as one res­i­dent said, it is far from be­ing the only one, as she knows oth­ers like it in the city. That peo­ple would vol­un­tar­ily choose to live there, merely be­cause it is af­ford­able, is a stark il­lus­tra­tion of just how se­vere and wretched the hous­ing cri­sis is.

These stu­dents need short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion, for a few months at most, but there must be oth­ers for whom such hell­holes be­come a per­ma­nent home. We’re sick of sound­ing like a bro­ken record – but that is be­cause no one ever changes it.

Tues­day’s Bud­get must put spend­ing on houses to the fore. It must ring-fence the money needed and set out a clear, ac­count­able, ver­i­fi­able and cast-iron time­line for con­struc­tion on a mas­sive scale.

This coun­try was blighted in its past by slums. We have no right to claim to be a civilised na­tion when peo­ple are only a dropped cig­a­rette away from tragedy on an unimag­in­able scale.

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