Independent TD for Clare, Violet-Anne Wynne has called for an aggressive range of measures to combat homelessness in the wake of a Government announcement that their ban on no-fault evictions will be lifted as planned on 31st March.
“When this moratorium was first announced in October, I said at the time that the ban would not be a solution to the housing crisis and would not provide security of tenure beyond the end of it. I said that it was a time buying exercise by the Government and would prove futile beyond the end of March. Unfortunately, it appears that time has proven me right. I also said that I hoped the Government would use this time to constructively engage with the sector and all relevant stakeholders to work on concrete solutions and unfortunately to this end time has proven me wrong.”
“I have written to the Minister on several occasions requesting that he employ a similar strategy with the large-scale building of modular homes to that of the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. I also asked him to employ the same statutory instrument granting planning exemptions that Minister O’Gorman is using to get units onstream as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, my calls have not been heeded and my advice has been flatly and roundly ignored.”
The Clare Independent Deputy advised the Minister in her letter in January: “Last week, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth confirmed to me that his Department will be constructing 700 rapid build homes with the potential to house up to 2,800 individuals in family units. He said that he expects to have 500 of these units on-stream by April 2023. He confirmed that sites in Cork, Cavan, Claremorris, Mallow, and Thurles have been earmarked for development and that all developments will include as standard; roads, footpaths, street lighting and community facilities, including a playground and green spaces.
These units would be completely public housing on public land, and in addition they would be highly energy efficient, durable, sustainably built and will have a life expectancy of 60 years. The basic footprint of these units is that they accommodate up to four bedrooms.
If we were to replicate this effort with respect to housing, it would require possibly 3,000 units to clear the current list of 11,542 people registered homeless and provide the opportunity to build up capacity in order to ensure that people who become homeless in the future will have options.”
The Deputy continued; “I am not saying that this is an ideal solution, but we are now five months deep into the highest homeless figures in Ireland since records began. Once the eviction ban is lifted at the end of the month, we will see a spike of notice to quits being served and evictions just as we did at the end of the last eviction moratorium. The State must be prepared, and I believe investing in rapid build housing is one constructive solution that we can deliver on in the next few months.”
Reflecting on her remarks today, Deputy Wynne said that in her view there were five things that Government needed to do to provide safety and certainty to renters; proceed with holding the referendum on a right to housing; redefine homelessness; abolish no-fault evictions; abolish and reframe licensee tenancies; and institute a custodial deposit protection scheme. She said the single most important of these measures is the abolition of no-fault evictions.
“The apathy shown to renters by this Government never ceases to surprise me. Ending this show trial of an eviction ban on a cliff-edge exemplifies that sentiment clearly. If I were to be made Minister for Housing tomorrow there are 5 things that I would do to show renters that the Government cared about them, with the centrepiece of that programme being the abolition of no-fault evictions. I have already spoken publicly at length of my support for the abolition of no-fault evictions, which currently make up 7 out of 10 evictions in this state. Nobody will be shocked to hear that 9 out of 10 tenancy terminations in Ireland are landlord-led and abolishing this type of eviction will seek to rebalance the scales some bit on the side of renters. This single move would serve to re-establish the private rental sector as a viable option for long-term housing and would improve security of tenure for the more than half a million people across Ireland who are private renters.
“The four other measures that I have mentioned are firstly, holding a referendum on housing in line with Article 31 of the Revised European Social Charter. The report stage of the Housing Commission has now concluded, and I have written to the Minister requesting that he make a statement and get the ball rolling on this referendum. Secondly, we need to redefine homelessness. The true figure of hidden homelessness in Ireland is estimated to be over 290,000 and 1 in 4 of us know someone who is or has been hidden homeless. I intend to work on bringing forward legislation to redefine homelessness before the end of this Dáil. Thirdly, licensees currently have no minimum notice periods or habitation standard requirements. This is shameful and it needs to be replaced with a set of circumscribed tenancy rights which will require an amendment of the Residential Tenancies Act. Finally, a custodial deposit protection scheme would provide more security for renters in claiming back their security deposits when their tenancy is terminated. A Bill was brought forward a few years but died at the end of the last Dáil. It would be very welcome to see this issue picked up again as a matter of priority.”