Sir, – Regarding “The Irish Times view on the eviction ban debate: the Government walks into trouble” (March 22nd), you note that the Government continues to rely, as a solution to a pending eviction, upon offering tenants first refusal to buy properties being sold by the landlords.
How can this be a viable option? Many, if not all, of these same tenants are struggling to meet the staggering levels of rent payments demanded each month by their landlord. How would such tenants ever have been able to save enough money for a deposit, or save enough to be considered a worthy loan risk by a bank?
Maintaining the eviction ban may not solve the housing crisis, but ending it will likely force more people into homelessness. – Yours, etc,
[ Eviction ban: Two high-stakes Dáil votes imminent as Opposition seeks to maintain pressure after defeat ]
[ Letters: Readers respond to Sally Rooney’s article on evictions and the housing crisis ]
[ Sally Rooney: Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped ]
Sir, – The Hippocratic oath of “First do no harm” might usefully be applied to proposed remedies for the rental sector.
Much of the debate on the rights and wrongs of the current rental sector is based on one-sided arguments and partial evidence. This is understandable given the sensitivity of the issues involved and the strongly held positions of the various parties.
It seems to me, however, that there are certain aspects of the situation that are accepted by everybody involved and that, if acknowledged, arguably present a tangible list of problems to be addressed.
First, it seems likely that the vast majority of tenancy agreements present no practical problems to the parties involved and that both tenants and landlords co-exist in a spirit of mutual agreement and co-operation. Closely related to this starting point in my argument is the fact that, apparently, about 50 per cent of all tenancies in Ireland involve small landlords, possibly a unique situation internationally.
Second, because of the present dysfunctionality of the wider rental market, a growing patchwork of regulations have been introduced that have no day-to-day relevance to those who have a satisfactory tenancy arrangement but, rather, anticipate problems that this dysfunctionality may create.
Third, this regulatory environment mostly affects landlords because it is they who have to fulfil the bureaucratic requirements needed for compliance. Related to this is the fact that all disputes arising from non-compliance, by either party to a tenancy agreement, must be channelled through a State agency that is inadequately resourced to deal with the aforementioned growth of regulations. And it needs to be added that a lot of non-compliance is probably due to a simple inability to keep up with changing regulations or a difficulty in getting timely advice regarding compliance requirements.
So we have a situation where the many landlords who may own just one or two rental properties, and have had long-term good relations with tenants, have to deal with growing uncertainty around rapidly changing bureaucratic demands. These factors, when combined with the imbalance between income and expenditure due to rent restrictions that take no account of the substantial increasing costs of management charges, tradesmen’s fees, etc, are driving many small landlords to sell up.
Clearly the net result of all this is a potential increase in the rate of evictions due to the exodus of fearful landlords – a response to an unstable situation where, in the vast majority of cases, no problem currently exists. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The embarrassing saga of the eviction ban is a good illustration of how policy has been made on many difficult issues over the last decade. The same path is invariably trodden every time.
First, the populist left zones in on an issue which it feels it can exploit for electoral gain. It proposes a wildly unrealistic quick-fix measure to address it which it is plain for all to see will be counterproductive, at best.
Second, the proposal begins to gain support in the media. NGOs give it their full endorsement, as C-list celebrities and cosseted social media influencers start parroting populist soundbites in support of it.
Third, the Government caves and adopts the policy in the face of some performative grumbling from its own spineless backbenchers.
And finally, when the policy inevitably leads to disastrous consequences, the genius solution of the hard-left is to call for it to be implemented permanently and on a more expansive basis.
This is exactly how the eviction ban issue has played out in recent months, and we have witnessed this same step-by-step process countless times over the last 10 years.
From the abolition of water charges, to the emasculation of the property tax, to mandatory hotel quarantine during Covid which reduced Ireland to an international laughing stock, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have consistently allowed themselves to be browbeaten into adopting nonsense populist policies which they knew in advance would lead to disaster. And on each occasion Fine Gael in particular has sustained serious political damage when it has had to mop up the mess created.
The Government deserves every ounce of pain inflicted on it as a result of the eviction ban. Perhaps it will teach them, finally, to stop dancing to populist far-left tunes. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Sally Rooney differentiates owner-occupiers from private landlords and investors (“Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped”, Weekend Review, March 18th).
However, many owner-occupiers also view their homes as investments. Seeing themselves as being on a “property ladder”, they act to ensure their home value appreciates, so they can maximise their return, in the event of a sale.
One of the ways they do so is through opposing the building of new homes in their localities. They use spurious reasons about aesthetics, green belts, scarce facilities and so on, but their main reason is to avoid their own home losing value. In this way they treat their homes as an investment, in much the same way as private landlords do.
In general, they tend to reserve most opposition toward building social and public homes, a form of housing supply surprisingly not mentioned at all in Sally Rooney’s article.
The problem is not landlords, but that the whole of society has been sold the idea that they should aspire to be on the property ladder.
That, unfortunately has become the new “social contract”, whereas in the decades prior to the Celtic Tiger, when up to 30 per cent of housing stock was publicly owned, the social contract was concerned with ensuring that people who could not afford to buy property would not be deprived of a home.
It is true, obviously, that every measure should be used to prevent evictions, but a more honest societal debate about housing is needed. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In his letter of March 21st, Alan Dukes describes as “patent nonsense” Sally Rooney’s observation that the Government may be trying to keep house prices high in order to appease property owners. He goes on to say that there is “not a shred of evidence” to support this view.
It only takes a quick perusal through the archives of this newspaper to see that in the early 2010s, the decline in property prices following their 2007 peak was seen by many in power as essentially a problem to be solved. For example, an article was published on January 2nd, 2014, entitled “Optimism over rise in Dublin house prices”. The question is, for whom exactly was this a reason to be optimistic, other than property owners?
Can Mr Dukes really argue that the Coalition, and the homeowners who form the core of their voting constituency, have no mutual interest in keeping prices high? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Will the Dáil motions prove a safety net for renters or a safety net for the Government? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Would anybody in the Dáil like to clearly define how many homeless people constitute a homeless emergency?
It appears that, as long as it’s not me, there isn’t one. – Yours, etc,