By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
The decision by the Irish government last week to end the ban on evictions at the end of this month will result in thousands of families being evicted from their homes.
The present crisis in the Irish housing market is also a damning indictment of the decision taken by successive governments in the Republic to hugely reduce public housing and replace it with a largely private model.
Indeed the word ‘evicted’ goes deep into the Irish psyche when tens of thousands of households were evicted during the Irish Famine (also known as the Great Hunger) from 1845 to 1852.
‘I think we’re going to have a tsunami of human misery coming down the tracks’
Academic and housing rights campaigner Dr Rory Hearne recently wrote in the Irish Times: “The lifting of the eviction ban is a disastrous decision for thousands of renters. It is a major mistake by Government that will have devastating social ramifications.
Dr Hearne went on to say: “I have been highly critical of policy decisions that have prioritised property interests, but this decision is really shocking. Nothing has changed since the moratorium was introduced last October. The housing crisis has actually worsened.”
Veteran homelessness campaigner and Jesuit priest Fr Peter McVerry told VIEWdigital what he thought about the decision to end the eviction ban. “I think it’s a disastrous and wrong move. I think we’re going to have a tsunami of human misery coming down the tracks. We’re going to see a lot of evictions over the next few months, there is literally no place for people to go. The emergency hostels are full to the brim. We’re going to have families sleeping in their cars, sleeping in parks, and sleeping in Garda stations.
“Some of the measures, proposed by the Government, are ludicrous, like allowing the tenant to purchase their house. If the tenants were able to purchase a house, they wouldn’t be renting in the first place.
“Tenants rights in Ireland, compared to tenants’ rights in the rest of Europe are very weak. You’d be lucky to get a tenancy agreement for maybe more than three or four years. In parts of Europe, you can get a tenancy agreement for life.
“When property becomes an asset to be bought and sold for profit then you get into the situation that we are in today. Houses should be homes for people. They shouldn’t be like stocks and shares where you buy and sell them for profits.”
David Carroll, chief executive of Depaul Ireland, said: “All of our services are full at the moment and we have waiting lists for accommodation. I am hugely disappointed by the ending of the eviction ban and I’m anxious about what’s going to materialise in the next couple of months.”
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin added: “The ending of the ban is a real body blow for a lot of people who are now facing homelessness.
“It’s very clear that not only have the Government ended the ban, but they have no coherent package in place to deal with what is going to be a very significant increase in homelessness.
“The question is how do we accelerate the delivery of social and affordable homes, including using emergency planning and procurement powers, to fill the gap being left by the shrinking of the private rental sector.
“There are too many people in the private rental sector who should not be there and who do not want to be there. The issue is the lack of affordable housing – our public housing stock – which has more than halved over the last 30 years.”
Figures show that there could be more than 10,000 notices of eviction before the end of this year.
The challenge is whether the demand for public housing can rise to the top of the political agenda backed by renewed demands for a charter for tenancy rights.
The Irish Government has signalled, by the ending of the eviction ban, their belief in the vital role of landlords and private property. They believe, that by the use of more incentives to private landlords – small and large – they can stabilise the housing market.
Those facing eviction are faced with two stark choices – to try and survive in the face of evictions, spiralling rents, and the lack of social housing, or to get involved in a campaign that effectively puts the urgent need for a public housing strategy at the centre of the debate.