The answer to this squalor is mass building
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.