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69% of people believe past governments are to blame for the current housing crises

Meanwhile, the Ireland Thinks/The Good Information Project poll shows majority support for a right to housing to be enshrined in the constitution.

WHO IS TO blame for our housing crisis? Who can fix it? Should housing be a constitutional right?

This week, Ireland Thinks has teamed up with The Good Information Project to gauge the public’s trust levels in the current administration and what policies or solutions are most popular among Irish people. 

The political ramifications of the housing crisis are quite stark. Often, an issue may be
salient to many Irish people but not actually have a significant impact on the country’s political system. Not so with housing, however. 

Support for the parties of government have sharply declined in the private rented sector in the early months of this year, recent Ireland Thinks polling in The Mail on Sunday has revealed. 

A blame game

It is clear that the public views the housing problem as one with many authors – though most prominent among those are past governments for which 69% of the public identified, while the current government is regarded as much less to blame (37%). The banks sit in the middle of the two at 42%. 

About one third of people also ask the local authorities to shoulder blame, while 30% say NIMBY-ist objections to planning developments also cause major problems. 

Builders and developers don’t emerge unscathed from the opinion poll either, with 30% squarely blaming them for the current crises. 

Economic conditions were also mentioned by 23% of respondents. 

Respondents were allowed to select multiple categories and indeed most did: 

In spite of having a particularly low approval rating (per the Mail on Sunday polling, the housing minister, Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien, scores an average of 2.8 out of ten; consistently lower than even frequently under-fire Stephen Donnelly), the current housing minister is viewed as the least to blame, particularly by current supporters of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Those currently in the private rented sector are more likely to blame all actors (particularly current and past governments) compared to those that own their own home outright.

Who’s the right person for the job?

Sometimes important issues, such as healthcare, are regarded as political but they may not be regarded as solvable. That is not the case for housing, which is more commonly regarded as an issue that is solvable (79% believe this to be the case, according to the recent Mail on Sunday poll).

The Ireland Thinks/The Good Information poll shows though that just 13% of people surveyed believe O’Brien is the person to fix the problems. 

With this in mind we also asked who people believe could solve the housing crisis. Respondents were offered a list of housing spokespersons from each party. For Fine Gael, however, we included Simon Harris as a relatively well-known politician within the party.

Excluding those that don’t know, Eoin Ó Broin is regarded more highly than any other person listed as being the politician that could tackle the housing crisis with 37% identifying him as their choice.

In the same poll, Sinn Féin had the support of 32% of the public, and so Ó Broin’s popularity exceeds the popularity of his party by 5%. Harris also exceeds his party’s popularity by 3% (Fine Gael were on 24% in the poll), while Richard Boyd-Barrett,
on 11% exceeds the popularity of Solidarity-People Before Profit by 7%.

Labour’s housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan lands on 3%, alongside the Social Democrats’ Cian O’Callaghan. 

While there is little debate over the importance of building more houses, what else can or should be done?

One particularly prominent demand is to enshrine within the constitutional a right to housing. More specifically this can require limiting existing rights over private property, such as in the case of rent controls.

People Before Profit have introduced a Bill, the Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2020 which has passed second stage.

Our polling indicates that establishing a right to housing has a majority which narrows slightly when it comes to limiting existing rights.

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Almost 60% of people said a right to housing should be enshrined in the constitution, with 10% saying they did not know. 

The Yes side dropped to 48.5% when asked if they would be in favour of placing limits on existing rights over private property where necessary to ensure the right to housing for all residents. The Don’t Knows increased to 16.5%. 

On Monday, Ireland Thinks and The Good Information Project will publish more details from the poll – including details about what the Irish public deems ‘affordable’ and whether there’s an appetite to change inheritance tax or lending rules.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

About the author:

Kevin Cunningham  / Ireland Thinks

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