Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Saturday 3 June 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# eviction ban
Taoiseach says 'vast majority' of people given eviction notices will find somewhere to live when ban lifts
The Dáil yesterday evening debated a motion which is calling for the eviction ban to be extended until January next year.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 22nd 2023, 2:00 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS said that the “vast majority” of renters served notices to quit will “find new accommodation” when the eviction ban lifts, ahead of a vote on ending the moratorium this afternoon. 

In a tense debate on lifting the ban in the Dáil tis afternoon, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the coalition government has “thrown in the towel” on fixing the housing crisis. 

She said that Fine Gael has spearheaded housing policies that have left “tens of thousands trapped in a private rental nightmare”, and said the government’s message to “3,000 households losing their homes come April is ‘you are on your own’.”

McDonald repeatedly called on the Taoiseach to “reverse this cruel decision and extend the ban”. 

While Varadkar acknowledged that Ireland is facing a “housing emergency”, he said that social housing is the solution, and that postponing the end of the eviction ban is not. 

He said that in 2022 the Government built around 8,000 social homes, and that the finalised figures will be released within the next few weeks.

Varadkar told McDonald that her party could take actions to help remedy the housing crisis, including ending its opposition to the Help to Buy scheme, by stopping “threatening small landlords with more taxes and more regulations”, and by not objecting to housing developments in its constituencies. 

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns asked Varadkar when he believes Fine Gael’s housing policy “began to unravel”. 

“Was it in 2021 when it was revealed that vulture funds were buying up entire housing estates? Was it in 2022 when there was a staffing crisis in schools and hospitals? Because teachers and nurses could no longer afford to rent? Or was it this year? 

“When homeless figures reached record highs and you decided to lift the eviction ban and make 1000s of people homeless?” she asked. 

Cairns further said that people do not understand why any Irish government would “make a conscious and deliberate choice to vote for mass homelessness”. 

“This is about the misery your failed policies are causing to men, women and children in every corner of this country” she added. 

In response the Taoiseach said he is aware that the housing emergency is affecting people in different ways, “whether it’s people paying very high rents, people experiencing homelessness, or people who are struggling to buy their first home together”. 

He added that there is a housing deficit of somewhere in and around 250,000 housing units, but that the Government is climbing that mountain “step by step”. 

Varadkar asked Cairns to acknowledge that “some progress is being made”, and pointed to more young people becoming first time buyers in January of this year than in any month since 2010. 

Cairns, in reply, said “you told us recently that you turned a corner on housing. We’ve been listening to you say that since 2014.” 

“The reality is you don’t even believe it yourself. You say you can’t extend the eviction ban until next year, because that will worsen the crisis. So in other words, you don’t believe the situation will have improved,” she continued. 

Varadkar stated that he didn’t say the Government had turned a corner on the housing crisis, adding “I’ve never said that”. 

“The Tanaiste said that we’ve turned the corner on new home construction which is clearly a different thing, and he is correct in that regard.” 

Varadkar accused Cairns of failing to live up to her party’s promise of “honest politics”, stating that to “falsify quotes or misquote me” is “not the stuff of honest politics”. 

Socialist TD Mick Barry said that the decision to move to lift the eviction ban when the vote on the motion takes place today before 5pm evidences that the Taoiseach and the Government believe that there is an “acceptable level of homelessness”, and there is an “acceptable level of damage that can be done” to children living in emergency accommodation. 

 Varadkar denied the accusation, and said “I certainly don’t believe that the current levels of homelessness are acceptable”. 

Barry told Varadkar “You cannot have it both ways. You do feel that there is an acceptable level of homelessness and your denials are not convincing or credible. You cannot one the one hand come in here at twenty to five this evening and vote to lift the ban which you know will put very significant number of people and children into homelessness”. 

Vote on lifting the eviction ban 

 The Dáil is  to vote this afternoon on a motion over the ending of the eviction ban. 

A motion by Sinn Féin states that Ireland “remains in the midst of a housing emergency” and will call for the eviction ban to be extended until January 2024.

The motion adds that by choosing to end the eviction ban on 31 March, the government has “increased the stress and insecurity experienced by the 750,000 people, including working families, living in private rented accommodation”.

Cabinet yesterday afternoon finalised the government’s counter-motion to Sinn Féin’s proposal, which includes several support measures for people affected by the ending of the ban. 

A vote on the eviction ban will come before the Dáil this afternoon.

Government has indicated that it will accept all eight of the Rural Independent group’s amendments, which is understood to have shored up their support for the vote tomorrow night. 

If the Independent Rural group of TDs give their support, Government should have enough numbers to carry their countermotion. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday afternoon that the Government had accepted all eight ideas put forward by the group, stating he though they “made sense” and were “very much solution driven”. 

The amendments, which Varadkar said were being worked on by the housing minister ahead of tomorrow include:

  • Removing barriers to older people in long-term nursing home care who wish to lease out their homes
  • Increasing the grant rates for the Croí Cónaithe refurbishment scheme
  • Budget 2024 tax relief measures that would be retrospective and would take in the current tax year for small landlords

The independent TDs also want the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to be amended to guarantee payment to landlords where the tenant defaults on payment of contribution to HAP effective from the 1 May 2023. 

Voting against motion

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has already stated her intention to vote against the government on the motion, while a number of Independent TDs have also indicated that they will do the same.

Former Sinn Féin TD turned Independent Violet-Anne Wynne stated yesterday evening that she intends to vote against the government’s counter motion on the eviction ban and will be dissolving her “pairing” with Minister Helen McEntee.

Pairing is the term given to an agreement between the opposition and government in which the opposition will promise not to take advantage of the government being down a vote when one of their TDs is absent.

Wynne had previously been in an agreement not to vote during McEntee’s maternity leave.

A spokesperson for Wynne has clarified that when this agreement was made in the winter it was decided that it could be ended on two conditions.

“We agreed when we set up this pair that it could be severed if Deputy Wynne’s own legislation was up for a vote, or if there was an issue of enormous magnitude for constituents.”

Dáil debate

During a Dáil debate on Sinn Féin’s motion yesterday evening, the party’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin told Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien that the country is going to see ”levels of homeless that nobody ever thought was possible”.

The Housing Minister said the decision to end the eviction ban on 31 March “was not one that we took lightly”, but he said the Government believe it is the correct decision to take.

He said that if the Government were to extend the moratorium until the end of January, “we would only serve to shrink the number of homes available to rent”.

“If we were to do what [Sinn Féin] are asking, we would only be having this very same debate in the middle of winter, and if we were to do as you are asking, there would be no phasing out period, rather a hard cliff edge of evictions in the weeks after Christmas.

“The opposition know this, but they’re more interested in politicising the housing crisis rather than putting forward pragmatic solutions.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik called the eviction motion by Sinn Féin “compassionate”, and said that there was “no evidence” that an extension of the eviction ban would result in a reduction in supply of private rental accommodation.

She added: “But there’s nothing there from April 1. And we’re all hearing this minister, we’re all hearing this from families, from individuals in our own constituencies. You’re hearing it, I know. The homeless agencies are hearing it, local authorities are hearing it – there is no emergency accommodation available.”

She confirmed again to the Dáil that Labour would put down a motion of no confidence next week if the Government refuses to change course.

The legislation would indefinitely extend the ban, which could be lifted by order of the minister if homelessness figures fall for four months in a row.

With reporting by Jane Moore and Christina Finn  

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel