Over the coming decade, housing will prove to be the true domain of the struggle, the foundational right on which all personal and political development hinges. But first we must assert the fundamental demand that a home is an enforceable right. The first step is to recognise that there are two types of house -only two- and to disentangle them, because they cannot co-exist. The inherent character of each type means that, of necessity, one must supplant the other.
The first kind of house is a home and if we are to begin fighting back against this housing crisis we must acknowledge that the free market is violence and that violence has no place in the space we call a home.
A home is a space, often shared, that acts as the funnel for other human rights such as warmth, shelter, electricity, security and running water. It is a physical space that, once occupied, becomes a social fabric: a space of community, family, an idea of humanity, an idea of individuality, a locus point for memory and a framework for future hopes. A home becomes written into the psyche and it is the founding block of any kind of possible family or community or development. It is a physical space that you embody and make real. It is a priori for a meaningful, stable existence.
When a house is a home it becomes a holistic life with meaning written into every physical fibre of it. It is on that skirting board that your sister fell over and got that scar on her knee. It is on that bed that your grandmother died. It is on that mantelpiece that you keep your wedding photographs. It is in that room that your daughter took her first steps. That’s where the dog sleeps. It is on that side of the bed that you wake up next to your partner every morning. It is on that couch that your drunken cousin sleeps. It is on that hob that you burnt your hand. This is where my father used to sit. This is where my son draws on the fridge. It is on that table that homework is done and food is eaten. It is on this side of the couch that I lean when I am tired. It was leaning against this wall that I first said I loved you.
The second kind of house is an economic tool.
It is used for future gain, used to exploit capital, used to store wealth, used to extract rent, used to prop up economies, used to devalue economies, used as a retirement fund, used to create bubbles, used to spurt jobless growth, used to create short-term employment, used as a political football, used to financialise debt, used to prop up property portfolios, used to stabilise banks, used as a bartering chip in sales, used as a force to create wealth without human labour, used to socially cleanse communities, used as a speculator’s good, used to measure the wealth of the state, used to consolidate power amongst the few at the expense of the many.
These two houses live in the same space and with every day that passes, given the totalising nature of real estate capital and the life support it has been continuously granted by the Irish state, they become more and more incompatible.
In the future only one will be able to exist, and which one survives is a choice we make everyday.
Part 1 of a 3 part series on the struggle for housing by Oisin Fagan
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