On Saturday, author Sally Rooney wrote an article for The Irish Times with the headline ‘Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped’.
Since its publication, many readers have responded in the letters page. Below is a selection of those.
You can read the full article here: Sally Rooney: Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped
Sir, – Sally Rooney’s lucid analysis of the housing crisis perfectly captures how neoliberal Ireland has elevated the demands of the market above the fundamental needs and rights of citizens (“To resume evictions during a housing crisis would be an unforgiveable assault on human dignity. The moratorium must be reinstated”, Weekend Review, March 18th). She accurately describes the Irish housing system as a “commodity market” which has greatly contributed to a record high of nearly 12,000 homeless people, of whom 3,431 are children. Housing is a human right under international law which includes security of tenure and protection from eviction. Ireland’s homeless total will be swollen by thousands of tenants, already suffering the mental distress of the threat of eviction, should the Government lift the eviction ban. The lack of affordable public housing combined with State subsidies to private landlords has created a dysfunctional system that has consigned the majority of young people to the rental sector, unable to secure a mortgage. Housing is a public good, too important to be controlled to the extent that is by private investors and landlords. The eviction ban should be extended and civil society should join with Sally Rooney in standing in solidarity with tenants and our homeless population. – Yours, etc,
Centre for Global Education,
Sir, – The solution to preventing landlords leaving the business: offer them a tax-free rental income for the next 12 months. This will give the Government more time to build houses, keep more landlords in the business and prevent many evictions taking place. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Resolution of the housing crisis demands a multifaceted approach, one that is better articulated than the succession of partial schemes we have seen over recent years. I will not attempt to offer proposals, but there are examples to be avoided, like the trendy but nonsensical “co-living” scheme. Some schemes, such as the Land Development Agency, have failed (so far) to live up to expectations. Planning legislation is clearly in dire need of revision. Some of the simplistic remedies put forward must be avoided.
Sally Rooney observed that: “The Government presently spends half a billion a year on HAP (Housing Assistance Payments) alone, money that flows straight to landlords. That significant sum would be better spent buying, building and maintaining an expanded stock of social housing”. On the face of it, this seems attractive. Expenditure on HAP in 2022 amounted to €430 million, with payments made in respect of about 60,000 tenancies, an average of about €7,000 per case. If this sum had instead been spent on building or buying houses, it would have financed perhaps 2,000 units. Where would that have left the 60,000 tenants who would have been deprived of the assistance? Simplistic solutions won’t work.
The search for solutions won’t be helped by irrational accusations of bad faith on the part of policymakers. Ms Rooney observed: “Perhaps the Coalition . . . is instead appeasing the ownership class by trying to pump house prices continually higher and higher”. This is patent nonsense without a shred of evidence to back it up, to be treated with the same scepticism as any of the daftest memes on TikTok. – Yours, etc,
[ Sally Rooney: Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped ]
Sir, – It is easy to understand why the Government is ending the eviction ban. It is creating rather than solving problems. A damburst of evictions is building behind it and the longer it goes on the bigger that damburst will be. Furthermore, a continuous eviction ban is proposed by no one and would probably unconstitutional because of the way in which private property rights have been developed and interpreted by the superior courts under Article 43 over the past 50 years.
It is easy to understand why Opposition politicians are getting ready to vote against this good and responsible Government. We are facing into a situation where decent, deserving, ordinary people are about to be evicted into a traumatic and catastrophic service-less ether. Devastating human consequences are in prospect for a very significant number of people. There, but for the grace of God, go you or I.
This is a good Government, and this is a primitive sentiment: “Something must be done.” We all remember how terrifying March of 2020 was. A strange, unanticipated virus of disaster was blowing around us. In the ensuing 24 months, our Government stepped up to the plate. March of 2023 is terrifying for many people now. A familiar anticipated virus of disaster is blowing about them. Surely this Government is able to assist them.
There is some opportunism and craw-thumping in evidence on some of the Opposition benches. This is a nightmare scenario for every politician in Dáil Éireann. But this is a real crisis now. Not a fake outrage whodunnit from the realm of campaign expenses or members’ interests. This is a genuine political crisis. Governments have fallen over far less. If we do wind up with a general election, I will not be surprised. I hope that does not happen. This is a good Government in my view but this is a horrifying time and urgent horrified political energy needs to be applied to it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Sally Rooney is an excellent novelist whose books I thoroughly enjoy. However, her article on housing adds nothing but further confusion and no solutions to an already chaotic problem.
I am looking forward to her next novel but no more polemics, please. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is quite clear that neither the Government nor its officials have little or no understanding of the dynamics of the private rental market. Add to this an ignorance of basic economics. This latter advises that in a housing situation where demand exceeds supply, it is imperative to introduce measures to stabilise the existing housing stock while vigorously promoting new builds. The first and most immediate of these, stabilising the stock, is achieved by making it worthwhile for existing landlords to remain renting while at the same time attracting newcomers into the market. Totally contrary to this approach, every measure introduced by Government over the past number of years has been to drive home-providers, because that is what private-rental landlords are, out of the sector. The various measures have been well aired and don’t need rehearsing here.
The facts are that there is currently a mass exodus from the sector, accelerated by numerous factors but to date the most impactful one for landlords has been the fear over the past few months of impending total loss of control over their property created by the eviction ban. Now, having decided to lift that ban, the Government is ‚according to well-informed reports, considering taking another step which is likely to put the fear of God in even those landlords unmoved by the eviction ban.
This new proposal, that those wishing to sell must give first option to a sitting tenant or alternatively to a local authority or voluntary housing association at a price set by a Government or RTB appointed valuer, will surely put the frighteners on landlords, the vast majority of whom would undoubtedly wish to put their property on the open market to get the best price for their asset. So now it would appear our Government is preparing to go the final step in taking away an owner’s rights by deciding who a private property can be sold to and at what price.
If deemed constitutional, this could well be the final nail in the private rental market coffin. Watch out for the stampede. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Oh to have a little house, To own the hearth, And stool and all.
Have we progressed at all at all? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Sally Rooney’s piece will form yet another missile of vilification against hapless landlords that have made the unfortunate error of investing in residential property.
Landlords are not exiting the market because of so-called high property prices, no more than an author would stop selling books because they have written enough words. We attempt to provide ourselves with a moderate living by helping to put roofs over the heads of those who need them – no more and no less.
I hope The Irish Times will give as much space to a landlord who will share horror stories relating to their challenges since the crash – increasing interest rates, being hounded by banks, plunging rents, errant tenants, no tenants, negative equity, strangling taxation, oppressive legislation and vilification. – Yours, etc,