Local authority housing plays a vital role in Ireland housing system. Without it many people would find themselves on the streets without a roof over their heads. However it is not a solution to all problems we are experiencing in this country today. In fact while local authority housing solves many problems it can also be the cause of some problems too. In this paper I will look at and evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses of local authority housing in Ireland today. I will also look at prime examples of these strengths and weaknesses, using a number of local authority housing estates throughout the country.
Firstly I feel it is imperative to briefly describe the housing system Ireland as a whole, in order to gain a clearer perspective on the status of local authority housing in the country.
In Ireland we have a dual housing system. This means we have a mix of both private and social housing and public tenures. State owned and social housing accounts for 19% of the housing market. The government enforced policies to ensure that a percentage of newly constructed houses were to be kept and dedicated to the local authority housing scheme. Local authority housing caters for poor and low income households, who may otherwise not be able to afford housing. It is accessed by means testing and also by special needs qualification. The rent for these houses are determined by the income of the household occupying them. The landlords are generally the local authorities. Some examples of well known local authority housing estates are: Moyross estate in Limerick City, Fatima Mansions in Dublin and Knocknaheeny in Cork.
Unfortunately over the years these local authority housing estates have built up a bad reputation, negative images and negative stigmas. A few different factors play a role in this. I will be looking into these factors in more detail, as I speak later, about the weaknesses of local authority housing. An example of this would be the former Ballymun high rise flats which were renowned for appearing on the news linked with stories of crime and violence. In order to combat this problem and create less of a bad image for these 'problem estates', the government set out a ten year plan to regenerate 7 local authority housing estates throughout Ireland. They aimed to do this by means of policy changes and state funding. These estates are : “Fatima Mansions and Finglas South in Dublin City, Fettercairn, Tallaght, in South County Dublin; Deanrock estate in Togher, Cork City; Moyross in Limerick City, Muirhevnamor in Dundalk and Cranmore in Sligo town.” (Norris, M and O'Connell, C. 2010)
Strengths of local authority housing:
Local authority housing provides affordable homes for those who would not otherwise be able to afford housing and this is a much needed and great service provided by our local authorities here in Ireland. Local authority housing has a number of benefits to both its tenants and to the community as a whole. It has many strengths.
Good quality houses: As stated above the government as part of the local authority housing scheme set out a number of newly built houses during the construction boom, and dedicated them to the local authority housing scheme. This was a very clever tactic by the government as it meant that these local authority houses were newly built good quality housing, moving away from the previous opinion that local authority houses were often undesirable and of poor quality. The most typical form of these houses were “cottage type or terrace housing in low density estates” (Fahey 1999. Pg. 236)
Cheaper, affordable rent: Because local authority housing is accessed via means testing and rent payment is determined by household income it means that lower income households can afford to live more comfortably and ensures that they have a roof over their heads. Without this scheme homelessness rates would undoubtedly be a lot higher in Ireland.
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