- The Closure of the mental Asylums, which had given refuge to thousands. So, these unfortunates, as the asylums closed their doors, about 20,000 in all, were thrown out, without realistic provision of alternative accommodation. Many of them were/ are unable to manage their own affairs, or comply with tenancy contracts (e.g., timely rent-payment, care of furniture and fittings, keeping the premises clean and tidy, timely and legal removal of waste). Where can they go, but fall back on the care of voluntary charitable organisations or wind up on the streets? Of course, in time, the original inmates pass on or are accommodated in some fashion, but there is a constant stream of replacements: schizophrenics, depressives, improvident people, lonely people, addicts of various kinds, people who breakdown, and chronically anti-social persons. Many of these would, in previous decades, have found temporary or permanent shelter in the asylums.
- The harassment of accidental landlords, workers and small businessmen, who, instead of investing in stocks and shares, bought a second or third house as an alternative security to pensions, or, as their own children left the nest, made their surplus accommodation available to tenants. In the new millennium these found themselves subjected to burdensome red-tape and unfair tax laws. Their natural right to select tenants was curtailed by "anti-discrimination" legislation, as well as their right to terminate tenancies of unsatisfactory tenants. As a result, they removed their properties from the tenancy market and about a million rooms that would have been available to prospective tenants, remain under-utilised.
- The Prohibition of Affordable Tenancies, i.e., Bedsits. This removed thousands of rooms from the market, and increased the cost of available tenancies.
- Family Break-downs: Most couples sink their entire income into funding the family home. When the family breaks down, one partner is left with the home and the children, and the other is thrown out. Bedsits used to be the immediate temporary solution for the banished partner, but now many are left homeless. This event is often followed by emotional breakdown and/ or alcoholic dependency.
- Thousands of Council Houses lying Empty. In my Blog "Monuments to Incompetence," I show a photo of council houses in Charlestown, County Mayo, which have lain idle for ten years and more, despite up to 10,000 people being homeless in the country. Apparently, these are but a sample of thousands of Council houses and apartments lying idle around the country, due to the immobilisation of Local Authorities by regulation. Apparently, the story goes like this: Council provides a house to Troublesome Joe and his family. Joe takes the chairs and other furniture from the house and sells them from his white van. He is given notice to leave for non-payment of rent. He refuses to leave and the Council has to go to court, at considerable expense, to get a Court Order for re-entry to the premises. Joe pulls the toilet and bath and copper pipes from the walls and sells them to a junk yard, before being removed by force. Now, if you or I were to buy a house on the market, we would take it as we find it and do whatever repairs are necessary after taking possession. Not so with the County Council. It must restore a house to perfect, and original, condition before re-letting. But there are regulations as to who can be engaged to do the repairs and how. Any improvements made by the tenant (such as timber flooring or extensions) have to be reversed. The council don't have the particular resources this year, and every year for the next ten years to repair this particular house, and so it is left idle. Meanwhile, Joe is homeless and applies to be rehoused and a new cycle of destruction ensues.
- The harassment of the landlord class. This began during the First World War. Rent Restriction was introduced, which was appropriate at the time, but was continued until the 1970s. Landlords were unable to extract a fair return or finance repairs. This resulted in the deterioration of the housing stock and the failure of the landlord class to provide houses for the expanding population. A severe housing crisis in the early 1960s resulted. This was answered by a massive public housing project in Ballymun, which solved the housing crisis at the time, but led to social problems because of the failure of the authorities to provide adequate amenities for the urban population transferred there.
- Restrictive Building Regulations. The houses many of us were raised in would not pass current building, health-and-safety, or fire, regulations. Indeed, we have seen in the news, instances of people who were thrown out of existing accommodation because it did not reach fire-regulation standards, only to be made homeless. Despite the thousands of houses that would not reach present standards, there were not that many houses destroyed by fire in Dublin. Which is better, live in a house which requires improvement to make it fire-safe, or live by the side of the road?
- Planning and Zoning Laws. Farmers and other land-owners are not allowed to build extra houses on their land, unless zoned for housing. In past centuries, hamlets and rural towns grew up as children of the land were provided houses near their parents. This would still be an ideal way for accommodation to increase, if it were allowed. Zoning brings injustice and temptation to corrupt practices, since one plot of ground would be zoned for housing, while the plot next door, equal in every other respect, would not. (In Germany a fairer system applies: all land is zoned for housing, subject to satisfying planning requirements). Fortunately for Dublin in the late 20th century, we had cunning politicians who approved many zoning applications against the wishes of the planners, as otherwise, we would have had a homelessness crisis before 2000.
In general, the cause of homelessness is bad government. Government should enable entrepreneurs, such as professional and accidental landlords, to provide reasonable housing in response to the needs of the time, rather than in response to the dictates of doctrinaire politicians. Enabled by fair laws, private landlords would provide housing for almost the entire demand, leaving only the most improvident to rely on public housing. It is unwise and unjust to require landlords to do the work of the Social Welfare department.