Proposals to protect tenants could speed up evictions, Green TD warns

Unfinished plan to give renters first refusal could prompt rush to sell before its introduction, says Neasa Hourigan

Proposals aimed at easing the impact of lifting the eviction ban on tenants could actually intensify evictions, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has said.

Ms Hourigan argued that the proposals put forward by her own party could see landlords rushing to sell before they come into force.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Wednesday her party will be pushing for a Dáil vote on the Government decision not to extend the eviction ban “at the earliest possible opportunity”.

The Irish Times understands that the earliest Sinn Féin could raise the issue is their Private Members’ Bill slot on Tuesday March 21st.


Ms Hourigan said she would only oppose the Government in a Dáil vote if Opposition proposals are “meaningful” and would “actually effect the eviction ban” or make changes to how it is being lifted.

Ms Hourigan lost the Green Party whip for six months last year after she voted in favour of the Sinn Féin motion on the National Maternity Hospital (NMH).

She said: “I am well capable of voting against the Government” but also conceded that an Opposition motion is unlikely to have the effect of changing the plan to end the eviction ban.

A Green Party Government spokesman challenged Ms Hourigan’s characterisation of the measures to help renters and said they could in fact “incentivise landlords to keep their tenants” by guaranteeing a fair price.

On Tuesday the Cabinet decided not to extend the current ban on evictions beyond the end of March and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien announced plans for measures aimed at protecting tenants.

There is a proposal to change the law to require a landlord selling a property to offer the existing tenant ‘first refusal’ to buy after an independent valuation. This will need changes to legislation that the Government hopes will be passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess.

Another planned protection for tenants is the development of a “cost rental backstop”.

This would see Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) or local authorities buy the properties and let them out to the existing tenants – who do not qualify for social housing but are at risk of homelessness – under a “bespoke” cost-rental model.

The Green Party has claimed credit for securing Cabinet agreement for proposed protections for tenants.

In a letter to members Green TD Francis Noel Duffy said they are “important new protections” while also saying: “the exact details of the [first refusal] scheme still need to be worked out”.

Dublin Central TD Ms Hourigan has raised concerns about the proposals and said she is awaiting “further facts” on them.

She said: “If you are a landlord who wants to attain the best price, quite rightly, for your property and you know that in three month’s time that property will have right of first refusal placed on it – and a fair price placed on it by the State – I suspect you will put your property on the market right now.”

She added this could lead to “an intensifying of evictions because we have publicly stated we’re going to introduce a scheme that we haven’t actually worked out yet.”

I’m also really surprised they [Fine Gael] would do that to that cohort because I am under the impression that small-scale landlords actually vote for them.

—  Neasa Hourigan

Put to her that under the plans the Government has said there is to be an independent valuation of the property, she likened it to compulsory purchase orders.

Ms Hourigan said she was surprised Fine Gael agreed to such a mechanism, arguing that it is “a huge breach of trust with landlords”.

“Not only do I think it will absolutely accelerate evictions in the next three months but I’m also really surprised they [Fine Gael] would do that to that cohort because I am under the impression that small-scale landlords actually vote for them.”

On the question of wider dissatisfaction within the Green Party, Ms Hourigan said the Young Greens are unhappy as are the Just Transition Greens grouping and some councillors – particularly in Cork – have expressed “significant” concern.

A Green Party Government spokesman disputed Ms Hourigan’s suggestion that the proposals could intensify evictions.

He said: “The Government has committed that the price paid to landlords will be assessed on the basis of an independent valuation.

“This means that landlords will be guaranteed a fair price, which in turn means there will be no incentive for them to evict tenants before the new system comes into place.”

The spokesman added: “If anything, landlords may be incentivised to keep their tenants for longer as they know there is a fair price available to them whenever they do choose to sell.”

A Department of Housing spokesman responded to Ms Hourigan’s remarks saying that Mr O’Brien “announced a package of supply measures which includes the requirement that a landlord selling a property will have to first offer it to the tenant on an independent valuation basis for sale.

“The announcement also indicated some of the measures which will support a tenant to buy a property.

“The legislation in this area will reflect a number of practical considerations and work to develop this measure is underway.”

There were heated exchanges during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday with Mary Lou McDonald arguing that the Government has “thrown in the towel on renters”.

The Sinn Féin leader said the Government had a choice between “wealthy investment funds and corporate landlords” on the one hand and “the needs of ordinary people” on the other, and that “true to form Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil show up for the landlords and the investment funds”.

In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused Ms McDonald of trying to create “a divisive, false narrative” that it was “renters versus landlords”.

“Renters need landlords and landlords need renters,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader later added that Sinn Féin was a party that “really just can’t handle honest, democratic debate”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times