JUST last month, a landlord arrived at the home of five young people in Cork in an attempt to evict them from their home.
The morning after the eviction, the home was listed as holiday accommodation on hotels.com. We are very often seeing that landlords are evicting tenants because they see a quick buck in short-term lettings such as AirBnB rather than long-term accommodation for those who need rental properties.
This is true in Cork and across the state, and it is beyond wrong.
It is shocking, that we are still in a position where people are being forcefully evicted from their homes. The blame here lies squarely with the government, whose failure to protect the rights of tenants has left renters vulnerable.
The government have shown renters, time and time again, that they don’t matter. They have actively enabled landlords to favour holidaymakers over ordinary people needing somewhere to live.
They have allowed vulture funds to buy up family homes up and down this country.
The rental sector is in crisis.
This government have failed to properly regulate against unsustainable rent hikes.
The most recent figures published by the RTB show that Cork city has the third highest average rent in the State, averaging €1,344 per month. This is a 6.3% increase, compared to the same period the previous year.
Most people living in the private rented sector want to own their own home. But how can people on ordinary incomes afford the extortionate rents and save for a home at the same time?
My generation, the people that I grew up with, are being locked out of home ownership. People in Cork are putting off having families, students are forced to choose between sky-high rents and crippling commutes, and modest income workers approaching retirement are looking nervously to the future.
Ten years of Fine Gael in power and rents have risen 100%, while affordable supply has dwindled.
Despite the spin and bluster, Budget 2022 offered absolutely nothing for those living in the private rented sector. Every year since 2016, we have been promised a housing budget. Renters are still waiting for this to appear.
The discrepancy in terms of the initiatives offered to landlords and vulture funds in the budget, versus the vast nothingness for struggling renters, is nothing short of infuriating.
Not a single measure was introduced that would alleviate the financial pressure renters are under.
There was no move to cut rents. There was no move to ban rent increases. There was no move to improve security of tenure.
Ordinary people in Cork cannot afford to rent nor can they afford to buy. When they can find somewhere to rent, a lack of regulation has allowed landlords to take their homes away in favour of holidaymakers on AirBnB. They remain stuck in limbo. This is not a normal way to live and it cannot continue.
On the exact same night these young people were facing eviction in Cork, the government showed its true colours once again, voting against a Sinn Féin motion in the Dáil that would have cut rents, banned rent increases, and strengthened tenants’ rights.
It is not rocket science – continuing denial by government of tenants’ rights is directly enabling scandalous forceful evictions to continue.
It is clear that the government has no vision nor desire to protect tenants and to tackle runaway rents. Sinn Féin does.
Sinn Féin in government would implement an emergency, three-year ban on rent increases and legislate for tenancies of indefinite duration.
We would introduce a refundable tax credit for tenants in the private rented sector, to put a month’s rent back in every renter’s pocket. We would also ensure that all rental properties are compliant with minimum standards by introducing an NCT-style certification system.
Building thousands of unaffordable build-to-rent apartments is not the solution here. The supply, supply, supply mantra from this government means nothing, unless the focus is placed on delivering affordable supply. This is why Sinn Féin would deliver 4,000 affordable cost rental homes a year with rents of between €700 and €900 per month.
There is action that can be taken to address the rental crisis. It just requires political will. This government has no plan to reduce rents, protect renters or prioritise affordable rental supply.
Whilst the government continues to vote down Sinn Féin proposals to stand up for renters, ordinary people will continue to be subject to disgraceful evictions.
The government need to learn the error of their ways, they need to stop putting landlords and vulture funds first and crucially, they need to prioritise the needs of ordinary people.