Origins of the Campaign
In response to the housing crisis, the Irish YCW launched a postcard campaign directed primarily at the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the Minister for Housing Bobby Molloy and the Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy.
This initiative originated during the European Movement’s “Common Action Against Social Exclusion” which took place in Luxembourg in December 1998. The Irish YCW, represented by eleven members from the Athlone and Dublin regions, presented the situation of young Irish people in relation to housing. A video was produced and the facts and experiences of our members were presented. This was the beginning of our Housing Campaign.
The housing situation in 1999
One of the biggest problems facing Ireland’s young people today is finding decent affordable housing. Historically, having a place of their own on a small piece of land, be that only a front and rear garden has been the preferred option for many Irish people. Owner-occupied housing currently makes up the bulk of housing in Ireland today. Approximately 81% of our population live in and own their own homes in comparison with the European average of 59%.
In today’s climate however home ownership is spiralling further and further away from young workers, even those in the “better” paid professions. Five or six years ago the average price of a house in Dublin was £60,000. Today prices are around £110,000 a 100% increase; in comparison to this, wages have increased by 2 or 3% annually.
Private rented accommodation has become the only option for many seeking to move out of the family home and begin living as independent adults. Generally speaking renting is still seen as a temporary option with the aspiration of eventually owning your home. For many of our members finding decent affordable accommodation is becoming increasingly more difficult. With escalating house prices has an escalation in rent.
The experience of our unemployed members has been that finding a landlord willing to accept a social welfare tenant is proving more and more difficult. Most are not willing to put their name to the piece of paper which allows tenants to claim the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA). YCW demands a review of the Social Welfare Rent allowance scheme in order to provide some sense of security for those who are unemployed in their search for decent accommodation.
YCW produced campaign postcards which were sent to political leaders and local politicians:
Housing Campaign postcard
YCW campaign postcard
During 1999 the issue was also highlighted in our newsletter “Working Together” and press releases were sent to the National Press.
As a Movement for young workers YCW demanded:
affordable housing for all as a basic human right
the establishment of a statutory body to monitor rent and house prices in order to curtail gazumping
better support for first-time buyers through mortgage interest tax relief and grant aid
the registering of all landlords in order to provide contractual arrangements for tenants and security of tenure
a review of the Social Welfare Rent allowance scheme as most landlords refuse to accept those who are eligible
that home ownership does not become an aspiration but something that can be achieved by young people
In sending the cards we wanted to highlight the situation of young people and call on the Government to ensure that having a place of their own does not become a mere aspiration but something that can be achieved by young people.
The campaign saw over two thousand postcards sent to local representatives and political leaders. The Housing Campaign sparked a lot of interest from organisations working with young people and those involved in dealing with issues of justice and social exclusion. Many members reported that they had received responses from their own local representatives outlining their commitment to addressing the problems of young people in relation to housing.