Government must address rent debt and mortgage arrears due to Covid-19

Senator Rebecca Moynihan
08 July 2020
  • State scheme to address rent-related debt, and action to stop banks charging penalties and surcharges on mortgage arrears need.

Speaking as the Dáil debates the Labour Party Private Members motion on rent debt and mortgage arrears, Housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan has called on the government to outline clearly the action it will take to address housing related debt that will have built up due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

It comes as the Daft report showed an increase of 63% in supply in Dublin but no real change in rents levels highlighting the systemic problems in the housing system.

Senator Moynihan said:

“The latest Daft report shows the dysfunctional nature of the Irish housing market with a 63% increase in monthly supply of rental properties in Dublin but no dramatic change in the rents being charged. This shows it is not just a supply issue, but that there needs to be affordable cost rental housing. This development adds to the problems created by the lockdown.

“Because of Covid-19 too many people have been unable to keep up with their rent or mortgage payments through no fault of their own. These rent debts and mortgage arrears are a burden on so many families.

“In the Dáil on Wednesday the Labour Party is calling on the government to act to protect people and bring in a scheme to reduce rent related debt, so that they can’t be evicted; and to stop the banks charging people for arrears that were not their fault. It’s time the new government took action on this before it is too late.

“Through no fault of their own, thousands of people lost their incomes, and this has impacted their ability to keep up with their housing payments. In particular young people have been severely affected by Covid layoffs. 60% of those aged 18-19 are 47% of 20-24 year olds are out of work, and are more likely to live in rented accommodation.

“I am deeply concerned at the long-term impact of this, when the accumulated debt will crystallise for many young people and households when the economy fully reopens.

“We can’t have a situation where young workers and families are hit with eviction notices from landlords, and penalties from banks. We want to see the current moratorium on rent increases and evictions extended until there is a sufficient supply of new housing, and there must be a specific protection in law to protect people threatened with eviction due to arrears built up during the pandemic.

“There has been a fall in the level of homelessness in recent months due to the emergency moratorium on evictions, and the new Government must learn lessons from this. For years we called for the law on evictions to be changed as it is the leading cause of homelessness.

“There is a new Minister and we must now see new thinking on the housing crisis. Unfortunately the government response to our motion contains no such new plans or proposals but more generic proposals without any substance.”

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