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Minister for Housing says plan for ban on evictions will be time-limited

The three coalition leaders will discuss bringing in a moratorium on notices to terminate tenancies later today.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Oct 2022

A PLAN TO bring in a ban on evictions will be time-limited and will have to avoid unintended consequences that could see more landlords leaving the market, the housing minister has said.

The three coalition leaders will discuss bringing in a moratorium on notices to terminate tenancies later today, with the ban on evictions then set to go before Cabinet tomorrow.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the leaders would work through the plan this evening.

“I’ve obviously worked with the Attorney General and his office and colleagues to see what we can do as a time-bound measure,” O’Brien said.

He said there was an “acute” accommodation crisis that had been compounded by the pressures of the emergency accommodation required following the arrivals of people fleeing war in Ukraine.

“So what we’re looking at is what effective time-bound measures we could take to assist whilst we are building the overall supply and delivering new social housing,” O’Brien said.

“We will deliver more social homes this year than any year in the history of the state, and work through the other measures that we have done with local authorities, such as purchasing with tenants in situ, which means any HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) or RAS (Rental Assistance Payment) tenant who receives a notice to quit, I’ve instructed the councils to buy those homes.

“What I’m looking at right now is the proposals for the three leaders to discuss. I know what’s legal and what we can do. We’ve obviously got to be very conscious of any measures that we take don’t have any unintended consequences of further reducing supply in the private rental market.

“That’s what I’ve said before in relation to the nature of, let’s say blanket and open bans on evictions and things like that can have a negative effect with regard to further reducing supply.”

Winter period

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the plan was not for a ban on evictions, but a moratorium on notices to terminate.

Speaking to reporters from Government Buildings, Varadkar said: “Like I say, the proposal only arrived on my desk anyway on Friday and most ministers probably haven’t seen it yet. So I would like to give it proper consideration.

“The proposal for the moratorium on the notices to terminate is for the winter period.”

He added: “Certainly, when it comes to constitutional issues, it’s always been the case in Ireland that property rights are subject to the common good, they’re not absolute.

“So we have a property tax, we have compulsory purchase orders, we have rent pressure zones. It’s never been the case that property rights in Ireland are absolute, they’re not.”

Defending the Government’s record on housing, the Tánaiste said: “We had a housing crash and a banking collapse 12 years ago. The construction industry has never fully recovered since then, and doesn’t have the capacity to build as many houses as we’d like it to, or be able to build.

“We have a rapidly growing population, 5.3 million people now, 80,000 more people living in the country than a year ago. So even though we’re building more houses every year – 25,000 probably this year, more than any year in the last 10 years – it’s against the backdrop of a rising population and the construction industry that doesn’t have the capacity to deliver in the way we’d like it to.

“But what we’ve done principally is to ramp up housing construction to the point where we now are building more houses every year than we have for a decade at this stage.

“And if you take, for example, about 50,000 houses changed hands last year. A third of them were bought by first-time buyers, so 15,000 first-time buyers have bought their first home in the past year – that’s the highest in 15 years.

“So a lot of progress is being made. The problem is we’re struggling to keep up with what is a rising population, a growing economy and a construction industry that can only build so much.”

Meanwhile, a report has recorded the lowest number of available rental properties since the Simon Community started collecting data seven years ago.

The Locked Out report looks at the rental market and is taken every quarter.

It shows that in September, there were 392 properties available to rent in 16 areas across the country. This was a drop of 62% on what was available to rent in September last year.

O’Brien said he would read the report in detail.

“All these reports are useful because it helps to inform policy. We have, to be fair, created about 600 new HAP tenancies in September,” he added.

“We’re endeavouring to deal with 10 and 12 years of quite significant undersupply in housing, both social, affordable and indeed private housing and it’s about getting those numbers up in supply and targeting our resources at the right places.”

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