Ending eviction ban: We need to understand scale of human misery that will follow this decision

How could an Irish Government make this move knowing the direct impacts it will have on the most vulnerable in our society?

The lifting of the eviction ban is a disastrous decision for thousands of renters. It is a major mistake by Government that will have devastating social ramifications. A mother who is renting contacted me yesterday, stunned by the ending of the eviction ban. “I can’t stop crying,” she said. It puts her and her disabled son at serious risk of homelessness. Up and down the country, renters are in a state of panic, fear and anxiety about where they are going to go when the notice-to-quit deadline is reached. Thousands of renters are going to be evicted into a rental market with very little property available, and none that is affordable. Homelessness services will be swamped. There isn’t even emergency accommodation available.

We need to understand the scale of human misery that will result from this decision. In 2022, a phenomenal 2,734 families and their children (in the region of 5,000 youngsters) were made homeless in Ireland. Most were evicted because the landlord was selling up. The Residential Tenancies Board was notified of 4,643 eviction notices served by landlords from 2021 to 2022.

The loss of your home, being forced to move to temporary emergency accommodation, couch surfing, or into overcrowded accommodation, is a traumatic Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). It leaves psychological and developmental impacts that can be life-long. The longer the time spent in emergency accommodation, the more damaging it is for a child. Evictions of families from their homes means the loss of their support networks and children being torn away from their friends, schools and communities.

How could an Irish Government make this decision knowing the direct impacts on the most vulnerable in our society? I have been highly critical of policy decisions that have prioritised property interests, but this decision is really shocking. Nothing has changed since the moratorium was introduced last October. The housing crisis has actually worsened.


This decision even runs contrary to the Government’s own policy commitments under the EU Lisbon Platform on Combating Homelessness, which states “evictions should be prevented whenever possible” and that no one should be “evicted without assistance for an appropriate housing solution”.

Was this a crude and cruel political calculation by Government? Landlords are among their core voter base and are a powerful lobby group, with access to the media and politicians. This is a shameful decision that has put the property investment interests of landlords ahead of the most basic need of a home for renters.

The Government had options available to it. It could have introduced an amendment allowing for landlords to move back into their homes if returning from abroad, or moving a family member in.

The claim that extending the eviction ban would deter property investor ‘supply’ is not a basis on which to make policy

The starting point of good policy is ensuring it is evidence-based. This decision put political and privileged interests ahead of the evidence. Those working directly to support tenants and preventing homelessness, such as Threshold and Focus Ireland, made it clear that the eviction ban was working – levels of homelessness would be even higher if the ban had not been implemented.

Furthermore, data published by the Department of Housing shows the number of families being made newly homeless (presentations) fell since the introduction of the eviction ban, especially in Dublin. In the three months of July, August and September 2022, 708 families nationally were made homeless. Then, in the last three months of 2022, after the ban on evictions was introduced, the number of families presenting as homeless nationally fell to 637, a 10 per cent reduction. In Dublin, the number of families newly presenting as homeless fell by 22 per cent from 218 families in Q3 to to 169 families in Q4.

Overall numbers in emergency accommodation continued to rise, as the numbers entering exceeded exits from homelessness. To clarify, 2,734 families were made homeless in 2022 – 1,109 (40 per cent) were prevented from entering emergency accommodation by other solutions being found and 1,625 entered emergency accommodation, while 944 families were supported to leave.

Eviction bans are only one part of a suite of housing policies that need to work together. During the Covid-19 pandemic, other measures also played a role in supporting families to leave homelessness. Local authorities increased the proportion of social houses allocated to homeless households as a public health measure and more homes became available to rent as the collapse in tourism led landlords to shift from short-term holiday rentals to long-term rentals of homes.

There can be no excuses for this scale of homelessness in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. No one should be evicted into homelessness

The claim that extending the eviction ban would deter property investor “supply” (small and corporate landlords) is not a basis on which to make policy. Such a policy approach of constantly trying to appease landlords’ property investment aims brought us to this crisis. Do we allow rents rise ever higher and stand over tenants being continuously evicted from place to place as landlords sell up?

Landlords argue they are being made to pay for Government policy failure. It is true that the Government’s ideological opposition to building social housing resulted in a shift to providing social housing through subsidy schemes such as the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap). But landlords have still had their rent paid. Almost €1 billion a year is being made by landlords through these schemes. It’s hardly charity work.

The issue of landlords leaving the market needs to be disconnected from tenants being made homeless. Landlords do not need to evict a tenant in order to sell their property. They can leave the tenant in situ, as is commonplace across Europe. And legislation should be introduced to remove the ability of landlords to evict a tenant on sale of property. Landlords will ask – who will buy our property then? The Minister for Housing has given the answer – local authorities and housing associations have funding to buy up such property.

The fundamental problem is the overreliance on the private rental sector to provide the basic need for homes. The solution is not more incentives for private rental supply (such as tax breaks for landlords) but to build social and affordable housing on a scale that meets the housing needs of the people in this country. Rather than reduced regulation for landlords, we need to continue to enhance tenants’ rights and security, have an orderly reduction in the private rental sector, and buy out landlords who want to leave. We need emergency legislation and dedicated funding to bring into use the 166,000 existing vacant homes, along with derelict property and rapid factory-built housing.

There is a stark dichotomy between the huge resources available to Government – budget surpluses, and €4 billion being put aside into a rainy day fund – and unprecedented levels of homelessness. There can be no excuses for this scale of homelessness in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. No one should be evicted into homelessness.

It was never more clear than it is now that we need to shift to treat housing as homes – a human right, and put that right in the Constitution.

Dr Rory Hearne is Assistant Professor in Social Policy Maynooth University, and author of Gaffs: Why No One Can Get a House and What We Can Do About It