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Anti-Evictions Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] She went to the council and she was told the place finder service could not find anywhere for her. There is no emergency hub accommodation available for her and she tries every day to look for housing assistance payment, HAP, tenancies but cannot find them. Most of the time she does not even get a response. The only response she received, after checking with multiple landlords, was one who asked her to send a landlord reference and a work reference. She had a good landlord reference, which she sent on but as a mother of four kids she was not in a position to work and did not have a work reference. She has not heard back from that landlord, who was the only one who even bothered to reply. It is because she is a HAP applicant. She literally has nowhere to go. She was asked if she could find bed and breakfast accommodation or hotel and self accommodate. She is looking every day and cannot find one. The place finder service cannot find one. There is none. That is extreme.

In the past few days, she has found herself in another dilemma. As we are approaching Christmas, her young children pleaded with her to put up a Christmas tree. She debated on whether or not to put up a tree because she did not know if she was going to be in her current place with her kids for Christmas. Eventually she submitted to please her children and the Christmas tree was put up, but she does not know if she will be in the place in a few days' time. The question for the Minister is, "What is Elaine to do?" If she has to get out of her current place, that is extreme. Everything about Elaine's circumstances is just about as extreme as one could get. How can the Minister claim that a Bill that prevents that from happening is extreme? The Bill would provide the ability to say to the landlord, "Sorry, it may be inconvenient and a bit of a problem for you, but given that Elaine has nowhere to go, we are not allowing you to evict her." What is extreme about that? It is a very reasonable thing for the law to say in the teeth of a crisis such as the one we currently face. As Deputy Barry pointed out, the provisions in the Bill are quite common in other jurisdictions in Europe. One would hardly accuse those countries in Europe, which have already been detailed, of having extremist regimes. We are just trying to stop the flow into homelessness. That is the point.

Unless the Minister can provide an answer for Elaine, then morally he has not got a leg to stand on, and neither has any Deputy in this Dáil, in opposing this Bill. The Minister must respond to Elaine's situation, and there are many more people like Elaine who are facing that same dilemma coming into Christmas.

I want to make another point about the housing assistance payment, HAP, and the contribution the State's social housing policy is making to the extreme situations people are facing. At this morning's Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, attended by the Minister, I asked about HAP tenancies, or what the Minister calls social housing solutions. I asked how many people have had to leave those social housing solutions because the landlord has pulled out. The Minister sent the figures to us after the meeting, which in fairness he promised he would. The number is 2,624. This are 2,624 Elaine-type situations. What the Minister described as a social housing solution has actually turned out not to be a solution but has resulted in people being plunged back into the extremity of Elaine-type situations. It is not a housing solution and the Minister should stop calling it a housing solution. The Minister should certainly not massage the housing waiting lists by taking people who get HAP tenancies off the housing list. Until HAP was invented if a person was housed while on the waiting list he or she would not face an Elaine-type situation. A person was housed for life, unless he or she failed to pay the rent or did something terrible. That is the difference between a council house and a HAP tenancy, and I put it to the Minister that it is all the difference in the world. Some 90% of the Minister's social housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland, depends on those kinds of tenancies. The Minister can say 17,000 HAP tenancies work, but if 2,624 have unravelled, how many more will unravel? The answer is that thousands will unravel. We just have to look at the figures. For years to come - well beyond 2021 and Rebuilding Ireland - the State will be responsible for plunging thousands of people, including children, into Elaine-type situations. It is not right. The Bill seeks to address this so that the State will not allow that to happen and people cannot be put into that sort of extreme situation.

Add to this the absolutely shocking and extortionate rents currently being charged in the private rental sector. Some weeks ago I held up a newspaper property supplement to the Taoiseach showing the unbelievable rents such as €2,000 and €2,200. IRES Reit has tried to charge €2,800 for three bedroom apartments. Who can afford that? Everyone in those places is literally one pay cheque away from an Elaine-type housing emergency. We are not in control of the private rental sector and we are not building the social and affordable housing that is genuinely secure and which will not lead into those Elaine-type extreme situations.

I appeal to the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to support this measure, even on a temporary basis while we are faced with this emergency. If we get out of this emergency in five or ten years, we can look at it again. As of now there is simply no moral justification for people like Elaine and her children, and thousands of others like them, being put into that sort of extreme situation. It is not right and it is not just. It is shameful and the Bill seeks to address it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Deputy. Before I call the Minister to respond, I wish to make one point. Deputy Barry quite correctly pointed out that a very high proportion of the Members of this House are landlords. The Deputy did so in the course of referring to the defeat of the Anti-Evictions Bill 2016 on the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle. I should declare that I, too, am a landlord, albeit a reluctant one. My vote on that day was based on the precedent and tradition that the Ceann Comhairle of the day votes for the status quo.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy It is important to note also on that point that representatives in the House can execute their public duties separate from their personal or private concerns. I put it to Deputy Barry that to say that they cannot is to say that he cannot. The Deputy would have to recuse himself from voting on any law that might pass through this House that may impact on the Deputy. Every law that is passed in this House has an impact on the Deputy as a citizen of the State. It is a nonsense argument to make and it does not stand up.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger That is nonsense.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy It is not. The Deputy could recuse himself from every vote to be taken, be it on tax cuts, workers' rights-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The issues involved are completely different.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy -----or whatever it may be, because he is impacted by them.

On Deputy Boyd Barrett's comments, all Members deal with cases such as Elaine's, in every constituency in the State. We have a homelessness crisis and a shortage of housing. We are not massaging the social housing waiting lists. It is the law of the land that the housing assistance payment meets the social housing need. It is doing so for more than 40,000 families and individuals. The Deputy is aware - the numbers attest to it - that sometimes there are cases where the accommodation does not work out in a particular case for whatever reason, be it on the landlord's side or the tenant's side. This is why we have HAP place finder units and why the HAP continues with the person who qualifies for it. It is also important to state that 90% of our plans for increasing social housing supports do not depend on the private rental sector. Rebuilding Ireland has quite a clear commitment, as does the national development plan and Project Ireland 2040. Next year between one in five and one in four new homes built in the State will be built for social housing. There will be 10,000 homes in all to be added to the stock of social housing.

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