Bedsits ‘could send accommodation back to before 1960s’

Eamon Ryan fears bringing back bedsits will see a ‘lowering of standards’ for occupiers

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has warned against the return of bedsits. Photograph Cyril Byrne

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has warned against the return of bedsits. Photograph Cyril Byrne

 

Bringing back bedsits could mean taking back accommodation to the way they were “before the sixties”, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

For four years bedsits were banned in the State, but Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is soon to announce that they are returning as a means of tackling the shortage of accommodation in the rental sector.

It is part of a package he will announce next week which will also provide stronger protection for tenants, including a ban on two-month deposits, as well as prohibiting non-returnable booking deposits handed over before properties are even let in the hope of securing a lease on the accommodation.

It became illegal in 2013 for landlords to rent out bedsit-type accommodation over concerns that much of it was dilapidated, run-down and inadequate for modern habitation.

Mr Ryan said he has a “real fear” that the return of bedsits will see a “lowering of standards” when it comes to issues like heating, sanitation and food preparation.

Ban

“We have a huge housing crisis but we don’t believe that the way to address that is to just listen to the landlords . . . [and lower] standards for properties to be built,” he said.

However, well-placed Government sources said on Tuesday night that the relaxation of the ban on bedsits would not mean a return to the situation that pertained before 2013, where the accommodation in many bedsits was substandard.

The sources stressed that strict regulations in relation to sanitary facilities, heating and minimum space would apply. It is expected single-room bedsits will be required to have adequate access to clean sanitary facilities, proper heating appliances, and proper food preparation areas.

However, the measure is expected to allow landlords increase the number of units for rent in properties. The Government hopes it will help ease pressure in the sector, where shortages have had a knock-on effect on rents which have risen over 12 per cent, year-on-year, between June 2016 and June 2017.

The 2013 regulations required all rented accommodation to have sanitary facilities in a separate room, which meant bedsits with shared facilities would become illegal.

Mr Ryan said a vacant site tax would provide an incentive for landowners to bring their unused land into use. He said other options such as building student accommodation are more suited towards single people.

Rental costs

“Within standards, there is the ability for the HSE and other proper bodies to actually build housing that’s suitable for those kind of single individuals maybe that need particular care,” Mr Ryan told RTÉ’s News At One.

He said Mr Murphy should be insisting on getting higher housing standards, lowering rental costs and making use of unused accommodation.

“That’s what we need to focus on, rather than going back to bedsits as if that’s going to be a solution to the ills we have,” he said.

When a homeless man, Jonathan Corrie, died on the streets of Dublin in late 2014, there was harsh criticism of the decision to ban bedsits. Then-tánaiste Joan Burton said the ban on bedsits had “undoubtedly put an awful lot of pressure in terms of the number of places available as a home for single people on their own”.

Earlier this summer, Mr Murphy indicated he was in favour of lifting the ban, a move that would help some of the 8,000 people who are now homeless.