Bacik calls for release of all correspondence relating to decision to lift the eviction ban
- Renters facing eviction must have full facts – including AG advice
- No response from Housing Minister on how to triage queries from those in housing distress
Labour leader and housing spokesperson Ivana Bacik said people facing eviction from their homes must have full clarity on the evidence used by Government to make that decision.
Calling for the publication of the AG’s advice, and all correspondences with government related to the lifting of the temporary ban on no-fault evictions from charities, lobby groups and NGOs, Deputy Bacik said that the depths of the distress experienced by renters is appalling, and represents a failure of politics to work in the interest of the public good.
Deputy Bacik said:
“The political decision to lift the eviction ban was apparently made by the government without any evidence basis. There are now questions as to whether political pressure was applied to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to delay the release of Q4 figures from 2022 on notices to quit received by renters. Had this information been publicly released last week, as had been expected, there is no doubt that it would have changed the tone of Oireachtas debates on the eviction ban.
“We are used to seeing Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil hiding behind the advice of the Attorney General when making tough decisions. I am calling for the publication of the advice given to Government in relation to the lifting of the ban.
“As well as the uncertainty around why this decision was taken, there is also massive uncertainty for renters who have received an eviction notice as to where they can go next.
“It seems that Government has utterly failed to put in place contingency plans for people who have received notices to quit. Why was a ‘one stop shop’ to triage queries not put in place during the duration of the eviction ban, for example? Labour wrote to Minister O’Brien on Friday in advance of the lifting of the ban asking him how best we can help people at risk of eviction. He has yet to reply. This is nothing short of outrageous for the thousands of renters who are sick with worry and have no place to go.
“Particularly in the context of successive failures by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in housing, this is a hammer blow. When an election comes, renters will be very clear with Government about what they make of this decision. Instead of spending the duration of the eviction ban holding press conferences, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should javee been working with NGOs, opposition and advocacy groups to prepare for this. Instead, they have unleashed a social catastrophe.”
Letter from Ivana Bacik to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien
Date: 31st March 2023
Subject: Lifting of Evictions Ban and Consequences
Dear Minister O’Brien,
I write to you in relation to the new housing relief measures announced by your Department in recent weeks. You will be aware of the Labour Party’s strong objections to the lifting of the temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions. You will also appreciate our view that the failure by Government since October to put in place adequate contingency measures for those facing eviction on the lifting of the ban has created a cliff-edge situation for renters, where newly-announced schemes will be unable to help those facing eviction in coming weeks.
My office has received considerable correspondence from constituents, and from individuals from outside of my constituency, who now face losing their home from next week. I have also heard from landlords who, for a variety of reasons, wish to sell up but do not want to see their tenants displaced.
My colleague Senator Rebecca Moynihan has, on multiple occasions, called for local authorities to undertake a mapping exercise to identify households at risk of homelessness, so that a plan could be put in place to protect them; that remains our call. However, in many instances, individuals are coming forward to their local representatives to identify themselves as being at risk. Several of these individuals have sought information about the tenant-in-situ scheme, the extended first refusal model, cost rental, Local Authority Home loans, and so on. For those facing imminent removal from their homes, however, there appears to be little in place in terms of relief and a real lack of information on where renters facing eviction may go to seek out assistance and support. My office is, in particular, hearing from persons who are too vulnerable to present at Parkgate House.
Having spoken to staff and public representatives from several parties, my understanding is that we in Labour are not alone in struggling to put in place a plan for those contacting our offices. With that in mind, I ask that your Department circulate to all Oireachtas Members and City and County Councillors a localised action plan for stemming the worst effects resulting from the lifting of the moratorium.
I note that the Taoiseach has recommended that renters contact Threshold or the Free Legal Advice Centres. But these are both NGOs with limited resources. With respect, the Government should assume a stronger role in assisting public representatives to deal with the consequences of its decision.
While my Party opposes your move to lift the ban, we want to do all that we can to support those who are most directly affected.
I look forward to hearing from you, and would welcome greater clarity about how and when your recently announced measures will be in place in order to offer practical support to those who are now losing their homes.