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Housing minister says he wants to extend rent freeze and ban on evictions - but not indefinitely

The final decision will be made by Cabinet in the coming days.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien write to the health minister today about the issue of the rent freeze.
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien write to the health minister today about the issue of the rent freeze.
Image: Sam Boal

HOUSING MINISTER DARRAGH O’BRIEN has said he wants the rent freeze and the ban on evictions extended.

Under the emergency laws introduced at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, tenants cannot be forced to leave a property, and rent increases are prohibited for the duration of the crisis.

The emergency measures were first introduced in March for three months, but have since been pushed out to last until 20 July.

O’Brien told TheJournal.ie that he has written to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to ask if there are public health grounds to extend the measures beyond July.

When asked if he wants to see the provisions pushed out, he said:

“Yes, but it’s not going to be extended indefinitely.”

“I hope that we can,” he added.

Under the emergency laws introduced at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the minister said tenants cannot be forced to leave a property, and rent increases are prohibited for the duration of the crisis.

“We’re going to be making a decision on that in the coming days. I’ve written today to the Minister for Health, as I am required to do under the Act, seeking his advice on the matter – does the public health grounds exist for us to extend the eviction ban, and the rent freeze,” said O’Brien.

“If it is extended – and I don’t know whether it is, I want to be very honest with you, I don’t know – we’ve work to do and Cabinet have to meet on this. I wrote today to [the Minister for] Health, I’ve got to get a response, obviously we’ve got to get legal advice and it’s got to be discussed, but we’re acutely aware of the situation,” said the minister.

During the week, Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the minister that he does not need to consult with the health minister on the matter. 

Evicting people into homelessness during a pandemic is not compatible with the public health advice, he argued.

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When asked about this, O’Brien said:

“I understand, I’ve been in those hostels this week, and I’ve been in them before. I’m Minister for Housing, I’ve responsibility in this area and I take that really seriously, so I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect our own people, our vulnerable people in particular.”

“I’ve got to operate under the law… I’m following the process, it will come back and Cabinet will ultimately make a decision on it,” he said.

The full interview with the new Minister for Housing will be published this weekend.

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