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Spanish inspiration? Anti-eviction movement heats up with bill to end loopholes used to evict tenants

AAA-PBP is kicking off the first day of the Dáil session tomorrow with its Anti-Eviction Bill.

THE IRISH ANTI-eviction movement is following in the footsteps of Spain with AAA-PBP kicking off the first day of the Dáil session tomorrow with its Anti-Evictions Bill.

Homeless campaigner Father Peter McVerry said the homeless situation is going to get much worse in 2017 if banks and vulture funds continue to evict tenants.

He previously predicted at least 25,000 people could face eviction this year, something Taoiseach Enda Kenny later refuted.

“It should be made illegal to evict people and families into homelessness, except in exceptional circumstances. The right to a home is one of the most fundamental human rights and to take away that right, because people are too poor to be able to pay for their own accommodation, is totally unjust,” said McVerry.

12/01/2017. Anti-Austerity Alliance to launch Anti Father Peter McVerry, Richard Boyd Barrett and Ruth Coppinger TD as Anti-Austerity Alliance launch Anti-Evictions Bill. Source: RollingNews.ie

Eviction cases such as those in Tyrrelstown in west Dublin captured the attention of the public and forced the government to introduce an amendment to legislation – dubbed the Tyrrelstown amendment (which many are still unhappy with).

Last week, a similar case hit the headlines in Limerick where residents of The Strand apartments were told to vacate their apartments when the property was sold to a vulture fund. After much media coverage, local protests, over 2,000 people putting their name to a petition, and the Housing Minister Simon Coveney getting involved, the eviction notices were withdrawn on Friday. Campaigners have called it a success for “people power”.

It’s also worth mentioning the groundswell of support around Apollo House.

It appears the anti-evictions movement is heating up in Ireland - and it could be going down the same road as Spain.

500 evictions a day 

As the recession set in in Spain, people who were unable to meet their mortgage repayments were evicted in huge numbers, with The Guardian reporting a peak of an average of 500 people a day being evicted in 2012.

A citizen’s movement began whereby people took to the streets and mobilised to prevent evictions.

A big win for campaigners came in 2013, when the European Court of Justice (EDJ) ruled that Spanish legislation breached a EU consumer rights directive by preventing courts from halting evictions based on “unfair” mortgage agreements.

Spain Security Law A protest against a proposed new security law in Madrid that includes stiff fines for people who attempt to stop evictions. Source: AP/Press Association Images

TD Ruth Coppinger said now is the time to take action, stating that people are becoming impatient waiting for radical action on housing in Ireland.

There is a gulf between what ordinary people want done and what the establishment is willing to do. They don’t believe there is a housing emergency, while the majority of the population do.
It’s now necessary to cut off loopholes allowing legal eviction.

She claims it is becoming common for landlords to use ‘sale of property’ or ‘moving in a family member’ to evict tenants. She maintains it is a ruse to evict a tenant to get higher rents with a new tenant.

Where properties are actually being sold by landlords, banks or vulture funds, we propose the tenant be protected from eviction and kept in situ. In the case of family member, we propose compensation equivalent to six months’ rent must be paid to the tenant. This is the case in Holland when tenants are moved.

While there was much debate surrounding Apollo House, one aspect many questioned was why Nama-owned buildings were left vacant.

The issue of empty buildings owned by banks also came to head in Spain last year.

Spain Evictions Spanish police officers scuffle with anti-housing eviction activists during the eviction of Francia Bussi Solano, 24, in Madrid. Source: AP/Press Association Images

In November, a council in Barcelona fined three Spanish banks more than one million euros in total for allowing apartments to remain empty for more than two years.

An anti-evictions law was also passed in October.

Speaking at the launch of the AAA-PBP bill, which is due to be voted on this Thursday, Father Peter McVerry said:

While the current focus is on housing those who are homeless, the most urgent issue is preventing more and more people, and families, from becoming homeless. Otherwise, trying to house those currently homeless is like trying to empty the bath with the taps on full.

He said many people are evicted because their home is being repossessed by the financial institutions.

12/01/2017. Anti-Austerity Alliance to launch Anti Funke Tobun spokeswoman for Tyrrelstown Tenants Action Group. Source: RollingNews.ie

Funke Tobun, spokeswoman for Tyrrelstown Tenants Action Group, who received a notice to vacate along with 40 other tenants in February last year, criticised the so-called ‘Tyrrelstown Amendment’.

While Housing Minister Simon Coveney claims the amendment offers protection to tenants and prevents large-scale evictions. Tobun said it doesn’t protect tenants from vulture funds.

Under that amendment a landlord can evict up to ten tenants at a time.

We are supporting this Bill because it would mean that a tenant would be unaffected if their home is sold. Ten months after a vulture fund tried to evict us, we are still in limbo. The stress and pressure is so great. We need real action now.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown TD Richard Boyd Barrett said:

If Simon Coveney is serious about dealing with the current crisis and protecting tenants he will let this bill pass.

How to fix Ireland’s rent crisis? We put your questions to Minister Simon Coveney live>

Read: ‘Out of the blue, we got a letter to say our loans had been sold to a vulture fund’

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