The 2007 crash and Ireland's subsequent austerity measures put a stop to the construction of new social housing. As wages and benefits dropped and taxes rose, more and more people have struggled to meet their mortgage or rental payments. The subsequent rise in homelessness and the housing shortage has led to a boom in Dublin property prices as investors see demand outstrip supply, pushing yet more people on low incomes into homelessness.
"Official figures show that the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin has increased by almost 50% since April. A total of 139 people were found without accommodation, the highest number recorded since the rough sleeper count began in 2007."
"The number of people coming through the doors of the Capuchin Day Centre in the centre of Dublin is up six-fold. Volunteers and staff serve free meals to anyone in need. "Ten years ago it was around 160 meals a day - now it's 600," says one of the chefs. "People have no idea, until they come in here, to see the children coming in here in their school uniforms, they go home with nothing to eat until the next day sometimes."
"Property prices in the Irish capital are rising by an average of €6,600 a month, according to the country's Central Statistics Office, which puts them 24.4% higher than last year. Figures from Ireland's central bank show 35,000 homeowners unable to pay their mortgages for up to 24 months, and 135,000 households in mortgage arrears."
"In Dublin alone, over 450 families, with almost 1,000 children, have become homeless in the first 11 months of this year"
The 2014 Frank Knight waelth report showed luxury property prices in Dublin growing faster than any other city in Europe, and reaching number seven in world rankings.
"Illegal evictions in Dublin doubled last month according to Threshold, the national housing organisation, which yesterday called for the urgent introduction of security of tenure in the private rented sector."
In the face of all this bad news for everyone who isn't an international property tycoon, a small group of young Dubliners took over an abandoned complex of homes, offices and warehouses in August 2013 looking for a space to live, to create, and to encourage a sense of community.
I was privileged to be able to visit them a few times last year. Walking through the streets of Dublin, passing shivering figures huddled in the doorways of boarded up shops, it was always a relief to meet the warmth and welcome of the Grangegorman Community Collective.
On my last visit in September last year they were also hosting Dublin's first international squatter convergence where political activists, anti-capitalists and housing campaigners from all over the world gathered to share stories, experiences and ideas.
Above all the other functions of this space, it's central role was as a home.
Despite the painful austerity measures; the national memory of hanging on the edge of bankruptcy; and the huge concrete scars left rotting across the Irish landscape; NAMA is still willing to let developers put their profits over the needs of the community and to control the Irish landscape. Having valued the site at €4.2 million NAMA appointed Ernst and Young as receivers in March of this year.
At the end of March the Grangegorman Community Collective experienced a sudden eviction attempt with no prior warning and they were also raided by the police who mistook the heat signatures from their bio-mas electricity generators for weed grow rooms.
After successfully resisting this eviction attempt and spending the subsequent months running a public campaign to raise awareness and support for the continued existence of their community, they posted this message on their Facebook page on June 16th:
"so last wednesday at noon the last of the grangegorman squatters left. we established the place believing that people should live and get to do what they love peacefully and happily and therefore a stand-off with nama or police would have only served to feed the struggle that we live to transcend. its been some journey. while we are pleasantly overwhelmed at the support, interest and widespread attention, we never wished our lives to be an ongoing physical or high court battle nor did we realize it would be in the public eye so much. nobody was ever arrested or jailed despite RTE misinformation. everyone is having a well-deserved rest. anyone who was there will understand the magic that no amount of words will ever share. Grangegorman Community Collective represent love to all involved."
https://www.nama.ie/about-us/our-work/ - fun with banks
Eviction attempt stories:
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/grangegorman-squatters-evade-eviction-attempt-1.2151055 - plus interesting video of the squat
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/dont-call-us-squatters-dublin-ireland-housing-423 - eviction attempt & wider Dublin story
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grangegorman-Community-Collective/1429797140648848 - Facebook page of the collective