Irish housing activists launched the new “Raise The Roof” campaign this morning, which brings a broad range of organisations together to escalate direct action against the housing crisis, including the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The “Raise The Roof” group announced their intent to hold a lunchtime protest on October 3 supporting a private members’ bill that will raise the housing crisis in the Dáil “on behalf of the people who need to hear a voice loud and clear in their support”.
Representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the Housing and Homeless Coalition, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), the Peter McVerry Trust, and the USI gathered to launch the new initiative this morning. Speakers emphasised the vital importance of building social and affordable housing and reducing the rate of evictions.
ICTU President Sheila Nunan opened this morning’s launch by outlining her view that to call the current lack of homes a housing or homeless crisis understates what is “a societal crisis of our generation and our time”.
Representing students, USI Vice-President for Campaigns Michelle Byrne emphasized that students are “priced out” of accommodation across the country. She outlined that students are “sick of being taken advantage of”, noting that long commutes resulting from difficulties finding accommodation in the city centre put a strain on students’ academic results and welfare. “We want fit-for-purpose student accommodation over our heads,” Byrne demanded.
Aisling Bruen of the Housing and Homeless Coalition noted a recent surge in people looking for help facing eviction, but also those trying to resist being evicted. O’Brien also announced that the Irish Housing Network is set to relaunch on Saturday.
Director of the NWCI, Orla O’Connor, explained that the rate of womens’ homelessness in Ireland is double that in other EU countries. “Women and mothers and families do not have years to wait for the solution,” said O’Connor. According to O’Connor, the high incidence of women’s homelessness is “a result of dramatic increase in families who have been forced from homes due to high rent and absence of social housing”.
Father Peter McVerry, founder of the Peter McVerry Trust, estimated that the number of homeless people in Ireland significantly exceeds official counts, which do not include people sleeping on the street, in cars, in tents, or on couches. “We have a crisis today that I believe could get much, much worse,” said McVerry.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Shane De Rís and Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Oisín Vince Coulter were in attendance at the meeting.
Meanwhile, the housing occupation on 34 North Frederick Street remains ongoing as occupiers protest the housing crisis. Despite an injunction issued by the High Court last week which called on occupiers to vacate the property, occupiers remain in the building. Protest group “Take Back The City” announced the activists’ intent to launch an occupation in another property in the coming week alongside the occupation on North Frederick Street.
Rent prices have left many students feeling anxious as they search for accommodation for the upcoming academic year. New student accommodation complex “The Tramshed and The Woodworks”, which opened in Point Village last week, faced criticism for charging between €920 and €1440 per year for an apartment. Despite the backlash, 10 of 16 room options are currently sold out including the €360-per-week Penthouse Premium Studio, according to the accommodation provider’s website.
Dublin City Council recently announced it would review its housing strategy, calling the supply of affordable housing in Dublin persistently “inadequate and imbalanced”. Earlier this summer, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin proposed that rent caps be introduced for purpose-built student accommodation following rises in student rent of 15 to 20% in major Irish cities.