Damning United Nations report concludes that Irish government is helping faceless multinational vulture funds pushing Irish citizens out of their homes
There's nothing like the old photographs of Irish evictions to illustrate the sheer injustice that was once faced by our ancestors
Menaced by absentee landlords and targeted by unjust Victorian laws, often the only recourse that ordinary Irish people had left was the road or the sea.
But all that ended when we struck out for our freedom from the British Empire and its 700 years of oppression right?
No, in fact, the horse simply changed riders, the evictions are still going on.
A damning report by the United Nations recently concluded that the Irish government is actively helping faceless multinational vulture funds, who are busy pushing Irish citizens out of their homes.
Call it the 19 century riding again in the 21. The effects are being felt in historic numbers. Last month the number of homeless people in emergency accommodation in Ireland has officially passed 10,000 for the first time.
The U.N. has loudly condemned the Irish government for allowing these rapacious international funds to buy up huge swathes of Irish properties for a song, then turn around and rent them out at market exploding costs.
Not only that, the U.N. criticized what it termed the “egregious” business practices of these faceless private equity and investment firms themselves.
Their basic practice is simple: first, they purchase low income or bargain homes, then they “upgrade” them, then they raise the rents to levels previously unseen in the local area, forcing all but the deepest-pocketed Irish renters to flee.
It's 21-century colonialism without a shot fired, critics, say. The vulture funds take control, transform everything around them, push out the original dwellers, and transform the entire neighborhood. Rental prices can, they have discovered, alter the nature of an area almost overnight and there's little anyone can do to stop them.
So who's behind these modern day colonial expansions? Well in the past 12 months alone, hundreds of new apartments have been acquired by institutional overseas investors with a view to offering them to the already overheated Irish rental market.
Among them are the Los Angeles-based Kennedy Wilson group, which in 2019 is already a big landlord in Ireland and which recently announced it has billions of euro to buy even more rental properties there.
Then there's a U.S. based fund named Starwood that has reportedly assembled a consortium to spend at least one billion euro on Irish rental properties.
Then there's the Canada-backed Ires Reit, now the biggest landlord in Ireland, with more than 3,000 houses and apartments in its already bursting portfolio.
With their bottomless pockets, they are changing not just the Irish property sector but the nature of Irish society itself, and Irish tenants are entirely unequipped to fight back against them.
In Dublin, Cork, and Galway the rental market has been visibly transformed by the unfettered presence of cash-rich funds, who have set about buying out entire apartment blocks and housing estates without a word of protest from the government.
In fact, it's often with the governments aid critics contend, as many of these funds enjoy extraordinarily low tax bills on their rental incomes.
Proud to march today in largest housing protest in over 30 years in Dublin. 10,000 in solidarity with all those affected by #HousingCrisis the homeless, students, renters, workers, migrants, Travellers - a new growing movement for the right to housing in Ireland @_HousingCrisis pic.twitter.com/1O1xFjlCOx— Rory Hearne (@RoryHearne) April 7, 2018
This hand in glove practice came in for special condemnation from U.N. special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Leilani Farha. In a letter to the Irish government, she accused them of facilitating the “financialization of housing” through preferential tax laws and weak tenant protections measures.
Also condemning the vulture funds practices in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and the US, Farha wrote: “Almost overnight multinational private equity and asset management firms like Blackstone have become the biggest landlords in the world, purchasing thousands and thousands of units in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.”
Ireland is just collateral damage in a larger worldwide property grab, but tell that to the Irish families evicted after one of these groups gets a hold on their building or estate.
“They have changed the global housing landscape,” Farha continued. “Pouring unprecedented amounts of capital into housing, they have converted homes into financial instruments and investments.”
What bears repeating is that our current government has helped them with this. That means it hasn't simply stood by as these faceless groups alter the nature of our society, including how we think about ourselves and what we value, it has also stood silent as these faceless groups attack the very essence of the Irish character and our centuries-long struggle, which at root has always been about the basic right to a home in one's own country.
“What makes this practice particularly egregious is that it is being done without any monitoring or accountability mechanisms in place,” Farha concluded.
Again our government isn't simply standing back, it is actively aiding these absentee landlords to do what absentee landlords have done for centuries in Ireland, displace the local citizens and set them out on the roads.
So remind me, what did we fight for? The cast may have changed but the show goes on.