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 Header Item Residential Tenancies (Housing Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Message from Seanad
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 951 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] If this goes to scrutiny, the Government will have an opportunity. If it does not, there will be a delay in dealing with it. I appeal to the Government to allow us to address these loopholes, as this legislation does. If it wants to debate or amend it, that is fine and we are open to that discussion. To prevent it happening, however, is a disgraceful abdication of responsibility in the face of things that are happening now. This is not speculative. It is happening now.

If the Government will not allow this to progress, it should tell me what I am to tell the tenants who are being evicted by Cerberus. I want to know. I have written to the Minister, as have they. What is the Government going to do for them? What is it going to do about the fact that Cerberus is bypassing its legislation? Is it going to do anything? It has not given me an answer in anything the Minister of State has said. This Bill would prevent that from happening. It is that simple. All the areas in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, etc. would be declared fair rent zones and this would not be possible. Cerberus would not be allowed to evict people on the basis of sale except in totally exceptional circumstances where it would have to prove to the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, that the accommodation was needed for its own family. Cerberus does not have a family in Ireland. It is Mr. Steve Feinberg who is busy advising President Donald Trump on his mad policies. As such, we know those people will not be evicted under this legislation. If the Government is not going to accept it, what is it going to do to stop them being evicted and to stop the racketeering? If it does not let the Bill go through while offering no concrete alternative, the answer is "nothing". That is what is happening. I appeal to the Government not to do it.

This business of the slowing down of rent increases is ridiculous. Average rents have gone up by 60% since 2011. As the Minister of State pointed out, average rents were high even in 2011 at €1,100 and €1,200. That, by the way, is approximately the level of the rent support the Government is offering under the housing assistance payment, HAP, scheme. Even with our measures, which would reduce rents in these areas by approximately €500, it would only bring them to the Government's HAP limits and make those in some way viable. Even at that, it is €15,000 a year in rent. The Minister of State is saying we cannot do that. That figure of €15,000 is a hell of a lot but the current situation is that it is €31,000 per year for a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin city centre. Who can afford that? It is crazy stuff. The Minister of State has not addressed how he is going to bridge the gap between a €1,275 HAP limit and €2,660. How is he going to do it? If he does not, every person who approaches the local authority in emergency circumstances, as is happening, will be told to pack his or her bags for emergency hostel accommodation. That is what is happening. They are told to go out and look for HAP but it is just not there. As Deputy Coppinger said, the situation is now so bad that landlords think they can ask for sex in place of rent.

One of the young women at our press conference today, Celine, is facing eviction. She is overholding on a property rather than going homeless and knocking on the door of every empty building she sees to ask if there is any chance she could rent the property. She told me that at one she approached this week, the landlord said he might consider it if she gave him €3,000 up front. This is what is going on. What is the Government going to do about it? "Nothing" is the answer. Its legislation simply does not deal with this. Unless we deal with it, this thing will spiral out of control.

A statement was made about supply and worry about investors. I want to counter that. If we did this, it would actually drive these racketeers out of the market or force them to rent stuff they are currently hoarding in the expectation of increases. If they knew they could not increase rents because it would be pinned back to affordable levels and they could not evict tenants, it might force more supply into the market or drive the racketeers out of the market to allow the State to purchase properties, as Edward Honohan, the Master of the High Court, has been saying for the past year. He believes we can use compulsory purchase powers to get hold of the empty properties. There are 55,000 in Dublin. We have learned that these were hoarded by NAMA and are now being hoarded by the vulture funds. Let us drive these people out of the market and get hold of that property to rent it to those who need it. Let us stop the hoarding and landbanking that is going on. That is precisely what we need to do as opposed to what is currently happening, which is the exploitation of the market.

The Minister of State thinks that if we get down on our knees and give subventions to these people, the supply will eventually come onto the market to deal with this. Is he honestly telling me that even if that supply comes on board, they will reduce rents to affordable levels? Does he think that rents will come down at any point to affordable levels? That is fantasy. It has never happened before. It took a major economic crisis for rents to go down. The idea that if supply rises, rents will come down to affordable levels is the worst type of fantasy. The Government should cop on.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English It happened six or seven years ago.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It happened with a major economic crash. I have to go back to these individuals who are homeless or who face eviction and give them an answer but there is no answer coming from the Minister of State today. There is nothing but vague assertions about supply in the market. This Bill at least attempts to deal in a concrete way with the dilemma these people face today.

  Amendment put.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 25 May 2017.

Debate adjourned.

Message from Seanad

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Seanad Éireann has passed the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014, without amendment.

Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Select Committee on Social Protection has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for public services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2017: Vote 37 - Social Protection.

  The Dáil adjourned at 7.50 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 23 May 2017.

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