Homeless problem could get far worse, says Peter McVerry

AAA-PBP draft Bill proposes to end removal of tenants where homes are being sold

Fr Peter McVerry speaking at launch of the AAA-PBP Anti-Evictions Bill. Also attending were PBP leader Richard Boyd Barrett (centre) and AAA TD Ruth Coppinger. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fr Peter McVerry speaking at launch of the AAA-PBP Anti-Evictions Bill. Also attending were PBP leader Richard Boyd Barrett (centre) and AAA TD Ruth Coppinger. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Homelessness campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said Ireland’s homeless problem could get “much, much worse” if banks begin to evict tenants who are in significant arrears.

He was speaking at the official announcement by opposition TDs of the Anti-Evictions Bill which proposes to outlaw the termination of tenancies in cases where a property is being sold.

The Peter McVerry Trust founder said current issues may yet pale in significance compared with those of coming years. “If we think we have a bad homeless problem now, this could get much, much worse,” he told the meeting on Thursday.

“There are 50,000 mortgages in arrears of more than two years, 35,000 principal homes and about 15,000 buy-to-lets. The banks themselves estimate that up to 25,000 of those will be repossessed, and the families will be put out so the houses can be sold with vacant possession.

“If that were to happen over the next four or five years the homeless problem we have today will pale into insignificance to the homeless problem that we will see in five years’ time.”

‘Vital tool’

Fr McVerry said draft legislation being advanced by the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) and People Before Profit (PBP), which also proposes to make landlords who replace tenants with family members pay six months’ rent to evictees, would be a “vital tool in combating homelessness” were it to be passed into law.

The Bill also proposes to double the current notice period for rental to a new party from the current standard of 90 days to 180 days.

AAA TD Ruth Coppinger said it was clear the provision to terminate tenancies in order to move a landlord’s family member into a property was often “abused” as a method of removing long-term tenants on lower rent and subsequently increasing the sublet price.

She added that a survey of 60 recent evictees in her Dublin west constituency revealed that seven had been removed from their homes to make way for the landlord’s family members, and a further 19 were evicted because the property was being sold.

“This Bill is a serious attempt to get real rights for tenants and to prevent the scourge of evictions which is making the lives of so many in this country unbearable,” said PBP leader Richard Boyd Barrett. “If [Minister for Housing] Simon Coveney is serious about dealing with the current crisis and protecting tenants he will let this Bill pass.”

Ms Coppinger said she expected the Bill to be backed by Sinn Féin, which has in the recent past attempted to enact similar legislation, but was pessimistic about the prospects of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil members voting in its favour.

Tanya Felloni, a mother of two from Dublin who is due to be evicted to make way for a landlord’s family member, told the meeting of her own experiences in the private rental market.

“I’ve been in a position where I’ve had to over-hold the property for the past two years nearly because I could not find anywhere else, I could not find any affordable accommodation and my only alternative with two children was to go homeless,” said Ms Felloni.

“I refuse to do that, I refuse to be locked in a hotel . . . I have to prove constantly that I cannot find suitable housing, I have to go on the council list, I have to go to social welfare, and landlords can just move family members in without any proof.”