RENTERS in Cork have been thrown to the wolves by the government’s decision to scrap the eviction ban at the end of March.
The ban was helping to keep a roof over the heads of many workers and families during what is an unprecedented housing emergency.
The government has chosen to remove this protection without putting any plan in place to safeguard renters. This shameful decision risks plunging working families in Cork into homelessness.
Availability of rental properties are at an all time low. Emergency accommodation is stretched to breaking point. Where on Earth does the government expect those hit with eviction notices to go?
We know now that there were 500 eviction notices received by the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) for Cork alone in the three-month period from July to October last year. This is over 500 families and individuals facing homelessness from April 1.
This will potentially see homelessness in Cork almost double if the ban is lifted.
This includes single people, couples, parents with children, and pensioners who have been badly let down by this Government and deserve better. They face eviction through no fault of their own.
These are people who have paid their rent on time, month after month, year after year. They do all the right things to build a good life for themselves and their children, yet are forced into a nightmare scenario.
There is no doubt the government’s decision will result in an increase in rough sleeping and we already have an example of a local authority in Dublin advising that a homeless family should “present to their local garda station” for a “safe place to stay”. This is the sad reality of Ireland in 2023.
It is clear that the housing market in Cork is broken and ordinary people put under enormous pressure. Year after year, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have missed their own inadequate public housing targets.
The result is clear to see in Cork as we have generations locked out of home ownership, crippled by sky high rents, languishing on social housing waiting lists and being forced to emigrate.
Government TDs in Cork have supported this cruel decision. Tánaiste Micheál Martin stood up in the Dáil on Thursday and defended it to the hilt. What do these TDs now say to those workers and families in Cork who face the prospect of losing their homes?
Let’s be clear, the Government had a choice with the eviction ban. They could prioritise the interests of corporate lands and wealthy investment funds, or they could protect ordinary people.
True to form, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party showed up for the investment funds.
When it was introduced last October, Sinn Féin told the Government that an eviction ban on its own wasn’t a solution. We said it presented breathing space and an opportunity to accelerate the delivery of affordable homes to rent or buy, and to ramp-up much needed social housing. We also emphasised the need for a real action plan to bring derelict homes back into use.
Instead of demonstrating ambition, the Government sat on their hands, and ignored these solutions. Now, they have lifted the eviction ban, having made the housing crisis even worse.
The stakes are now very high for all renters. We are bringing this back to the floor of the Dáil to try and force the government to reverse this decision. We will not stand by while this government condemns families to eviction and homelessness. Every TD in Cork needs to be honest with the people of this city and tell them how they will vote.
What is crystal clear is that this government is never going to solve the housing crisis. They have repeatedly shown us that they are unwilling and incapable of doing what needs to be done.
In Cork city, the targets that the Government have set are far too low. They are only talking about delivering 378 affordable houses in Cork city over the next half decade. The failure is absolutely astounding. Workers and families desperately seeking to put a secure, affordable roof over their heads pay a heavy price.
The people of this city deserve a government with the ambition, energy and policies to fix housing and give this generation their chance at a decent life.
Sinn Féin in government would tackle the housing crisis head on. We would deliver the biggest social and affordable housing programme in the history of the state. This is the scale and action needed to turn the tide. I have and will continue to push Cork city and county councils to identify sites in Cork where both social and affordable homes can be built.
The housing emergency is causing misery for so many people in Cork and beyond. However, I believe with better decisions and better priorities we can bring an end to the crisis that has dominated life in Ireland for over a decade. We must start from the principle that everyone is entitled to a place to call home.
Scrapping the eviction ban flies in the face of that principle. It shows again why we need real change and a new government that is squarely on the side of ordinary people.