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Housing

Coalition leaders agree to lift eviction ban as planned on 31 March

It’s understood that Cabinet will discuss the moratorium on evictions coming to an end as planned on 31 March.

LAST UPDATE | 6 Mar 2023

THE COALITION LEADERS have decided to lift the eviction ban as planned on 31 March, it’s understood. 

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien discussed the winter eviction ban with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Michéal Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan during a meeting this evening. 

It was agreed that O’Brien will bring a detailed memo to Cabinet where the Government will discuss this plan and other responses to the housing crisis. 

It’s understood that Cabinet will discuss the moratorium on evictions coming to an end as planned on 31 March. It’s understood that renters with their tenancies ending could remain in their homes until June, depending on the length of their tenancy.

The existing eviction ban was to expire at the end of the month, but there has been significant pressure from opposition parties to extend the moritorium. 

O’Brien will seek agreement at Cabinet that a meaningful budgetary package for both tenants and landlords would be developed over the coming months, it’s understood.

It’s also understood that there will be a new policy on the right to refuse, so that tenants will be asked if they want to buy the property before being evicted. 

O’Brien is expected to bring an update to Cabinet on plans to accelerate and increase social housing delivery this year. The Minister is expected to outline how the Department will increase the number of social housing acquisitions to 1,500 in 2023 and each local authority will receive a target number, it’s understood. 

Speaking in Waterford this afternoon, Varadkar said that extending the ban was not a “black or white decision” and that there were pros and cons.

“I think anyone who’s been following this debate understands that it’s not a black or white decision. There are pros and cons. We have to weigh that up and Cabinet will make a decision in the morning,” Varadkar said.

He said that it would need to balance both the rights of tenants and landlords.

Varadkar also said that it was “disappointing” that the ban had not been more effective in reducing the number of people in emergency accomodation, with records again being broken in January with 11,754 people in homelessness services.

Both Varadkar and the Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, have pointed to potential negative implications to extending the ban.

Varadkar had highlighted the experience of some Irish people returning from abroad who cannot access their own homes, while Martin had questioned whether an extension could lead to a reduction in housing supply, with disaffected landlords deciding to sell up and leave the market.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Upfront with Katie Hannon, homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry said “on their own head be it” when asked about the planned lifting of the eviction ban.

“Clearly, the ban on evictions is preventing people from becoming homeless,” McVerry said. 

“I’ve been a very strong advocate for this ban to be extended and I’m very disappointed that it’s not,” he said. 

McVerry said landlords are exiting the market because “house prices are almost at a peak and they want to cash in on their assets”. 

“The ban on evictions would affect very, very few landlords. Most landlords are not planning to evict or are not planning to sell up, so I don’t accept that rationale,” he said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Monday, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said lifting the ban now would result in more people becoming homeless. 

“As we move into the spring and summer, we are already dealing with less hotel rooms. We are already under pressure from people fleeing the war in Ukraine. I’m not sure a full-scale lifting of the ban is an incredibly good idea right now,” she said.

“And certainly it will see a jump in homelessness figures and further pressure on services, which I have to say right now are already under a huge amount of pressure.”

Hourigan said it was a “very fair concern” that lifting the ban would lead to a surge in evictions. 

“I think that is a fair criticism. But ultimately, what I’m suggesting is not that we extend it for a few months and it’s business as usual,” she said.

“What I’m proposing is that either we bring in an amended eviction ban, which would allow for some exceptions in the case of, for example, people coming from abroad, or we simply extend it for a certain number of months, but then really take action on that tenant issue, on that tenure issue, on that no fault eviction issue, on the issue of sale.”

Asked about an exemption for landlords coming home from abroad who want to live in their property, Hourigan said she thought it was “reasonable that in some cases, small-scale landlords should be allowed to take back their property”.

Govt has to ‘get balance right’

Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers said it is important that any decision taken by Government doesn’t “exacerbate any problem by making matters worse”.

“We have to get the balance right and ensure that whatever decisions are taken that we don’t make matters worse, and we don’t increase homelessness by pushing a date out to another period which would exacerbate the problem but the evidence has been gathered, that’ll be considered by the party leaders,” he told Today with Claire Byrne.

Chambers said the Government has to “seriously examine” the issue around the current taxation position of small landlords.

“The evidence is clear. Many landlords are exiting en masse from the market, which is shrinking supply and affecting people who want to rent or who want to become tenants and also existing tenants across our rental sector so that is an issue that requires serious examination by government.”

Additional reporting by Christina Finn, Tadgh McNally, Eoghan Dalton and Hayley Halpin

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