Cheaper housing is essential
When negotiating new collective agreements, it is important to look at what the government is doing about housing. A concerted effort is required to expand social housing and to lower the cost of rent. The demands of Efling have from the beginning addressed this core issue.
Yesterday, the housing action group of the Prime Minister presented its ideas, which have been prepared since last fall. The group consists of representatives from the labour movement, the government, employers, the Housing Finance Fund and the Municipal association.
“Although the proposals are positive, and although many of them point in the right direction, they all have the problem that they’ve not yet been financed or developed,” says Stefán Ólafsson, expert in labour market research at Efling.
“Even though improvements in housing affairs, like those being presented here, are important and useful for some working people, it is risky to assume that they make wage rises and lower taxes for workers unnecessary.”
Jamie McQuilkin, board member of Efling and chair of the Efling housing group, says that it is important to look at the size of the social housing sector. “My estimates are that only 6% of housing in Iceland is rent-controlled, and only available to special groups. This compares to 60% in Sweden.” He adds that restraints on rent are sorely needed.
“The main problem is the absence of any kind of price-controls in the general market here.” The purchasing power of middle-aged and middle-income people, and their access to credit, has raised the housing costs out of the reach of immigrants, the youth and people on the minimum wage. This group is a substantial part of the Efling membership.
“Access to secure housing at a reasonable price is simply essential,” says Sólveig Anna, head of Efling.
“If society cannot provide this to working people, then we have a big problem. These are self-evident rights. Access to affordable housing clearly doesn’t make our demand for wage rises unnecessary. It is not our fault that this problem has gone on for such a long time. It is simply out of the question to make us give up our demands for higher wages when the time finally comes to fix the housing problem. Surely everyone can see that. Labour has a right to it all; decent wages for the work we provide, secure housing at a reasonable price, and a tax system that works toward a more equal society.”