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Housing Minister slammed for U-turn on selling properties to tenants in situ

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been slammed for doing a U-turn on measures to sell properties with tenants in situ to protect wealthy landlords and investors.

Mr Murphy was accused of behaving as though "preserving the wealth of some is more important than keeping a roof over the heads of others" after he rowed back on previous commitments, stating he cannot do anything to tackle vacant possession orders.

As the numbers of people in emergency accommodation breached the 10,000 mark for the first time, Mr Murphy said selling properties with tenants still living in them could bankrupt landlords as it would significantly devalue homes.

"We can’t just say, unfortunately, that if someone is going to sell their home, they have to keep a tenant in place.

“The fact they would be selling with tenants in situ would mean the property would devalue by between 20-30% potentially, so you could actually be putting them in a very difficult financial position or even into bankruptcy,” Mr Murphy said.

This is at odds with commitments he gave in January of 2018, when he said he was in discussions with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe about the selling of properties with tenants in situ rather than vacant possession. He said last year:

It does happen on the commercial side, we know that commercial properties would be sold with a tenant in situ, why can’t we have more of it happening on the private side and on the residential side as well?

Focus Ireland spokesperson Roughan McNamara said the Government is "lacking creativity and ambition" and said tax-breaks or other measures could easily be used to incentivise landlords to sell houses with tenants in situ.

Mr McNamara said his organisation does not believe a measure to sell properties which are still rented would be unconstitutional as has been indicated by the Government.

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin claimed Mr Murphy is protecting international investors and not those in rented accommodation.

“We need real rent certainty for tenants. The single biggest cause of homelessness is landlords selling properties and seeking vacant possession," he said.

Green Party Dublin MEP candidate Ciarán Cuffe said Mr Murphy's claims that he cannot stop evictions by requiring landlords to keep tenants when they sell a house are "not credible".

"What he is saying here is that preserving the wealth of some is more important than keeping a roof over the heads of others. This is appalling."