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Community mobilisation beats back property speculators

In a remarkable counterpoint to the drama of Raise the Roof and the cross-party resolution in the Dail, the day following the demonstration saw a major agency in the Irish property market, IRES REIT, issue notice to tenants of Dublin’s “The Maples” apartments that they intend to increase their rent by up to 30%, meaning that some tenants will be expected to pay €2,800 per month.

This was an attempt to set a new benchmark for rent. If IRES succeeded in their proposed increase all the other landlords in the area would follow suit. The Canadian controlled company was attempting to use a loophole to get around the usual 4% rent increase limit.

The issue arises because of the only attempt by the government at rent control. In areas of high housing pressure rent rises were to be pegged at 4%. The immediate result was substantial rent increases as landlords rushed to beat the deadline. Now the company has announced that they are not bound by the 4% rule because the Maples was not a rental property at the time of the regulation!

What is a REIT? It is a Real Estate Investment Trust. It is part of the financialisation of Irish property and allows native investors and vulture funds to collaborate in soaking value from Irish workers. In order for them to operate at all the Dail had to pass enabling legislation in 2013. Not surprisingly given the level of government support these agencies operate in relative freedom. Many avoid taxes, force up rents by 25 and 30% by claiming improvements and introducing new service charges and, if that not enough, mass evictions can be staged.

There are two points to be made. The first is that, beyond a few representatives of the socialist groups, none of the component parts of “Raise the Roof” showed their faces. The second point is that the REIT was beaten back within a few days, not by parliamentary forces, but by the mobilisation of local housing activists.

And that is the tragedy of the situation. The forces are there to fight back, but the majority of the political groups are locked in a reformist embrace with the trade union leadership, who themselves are locked in perpetual partnership with Irish capitalism.

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