Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 19 May 2016
Committee on Housing and Homelessness
I am pleased to welcome residents from Tyrrelstown in Dublin - Ms Funke Tobun, Ms Gillian Murphy and Mr. Charlie Cleary. They have submitted a presentation to us.
That will be on the website after the meeting. It has been circulated to the members, but if Ms Tobun wishes to make an opening statement she may do so, following which my colleagues may have a number of questions.
Ms Funke Tobun:
I am one of the 40 residents who got the eviction letter. With me today is Ms Gillian Murphy, one of the residents, and Mr. Charlie Cleary, a member of the community and the local GAA coach. The 40 members of the community got eviction letters starting on 9 February, and we set up the action group in March. Seeing those eviction letters was heartbreaking for every one of us. This is not about the tenant; it is about the community. We are a small community with multicultural residents. More than 120 people of different nationalities live in the community. It has been a very stressful time for me since I got the letter in February. Last year, the landlord increased the rent from €1,350 for a three-bedroom house to €1,450. I told him I would move out of the house, but we searched everywhere all of last year without finding one. It is very challenging. We have children who attend the local primary and secondary schools and play in the local football team. I have taken my son all around Dublin, with Mr. Cleary, to play GAA games. That is what our community is all about. All of us who got the eviction letter in February of this year are heartbroken. The wider community and the GAA club are supporting all of us in dealing with this stress. If the members want to know more about the vulture funds and the property owner, they can refer to appendix 1 of the presentation.
As members will know, Dublin 15, and Dublin west as a whole, is a black spot in the homelessness crisis. I was lucky to have been called to view a house, but we were one of 15 families with children who were viewing it. I have no chance of getting the house. One may have the money to rent a house but houses are not available. Getting a house in Dublin 15 is very difficult. This is an area with 8,000 properties to rent, but only about 50 properties in Dublin west alone are advertised on the Internet. Among those 50 houses, a one-bedroom house is €1,200 per month, and only two might be advertised, yet about 50 families are going to view the house. We do not have any chance at all in that regard. Two-bedroom houses are being advertised for €1,300 or €1,400 a month, but there are very few of those.
More than 6,000 people are on the council housing waiting list, some for the past eight and a half years. Many other people in the group have waiting more than ten years for a council house. In the past five years the council has not bought a single home in Dublin 15, which makes it very difficult for every one of us. We are appealing to the Government to find a solution to this problem and to rescue us from the hands of the vulture funds. It is Tyrrelstown today; we do not know which community will be next. We are talking about 40 families. This is our community. We have no place to go. I have made my home in Tyrrelstown. I call Ireland my home, so why should I be homeless? Why should I be evicted from my home? I have lived in Tyrrelstown for 13 and a half years, and I have lived in my current property for eight and a half years. I have made it a home.
We appeal to the members to consider our position and stand in our shoes so they can understand what we are going through. I am a mother of three children. I have a child with special needs who will start school in September. The school has already prepared a fund to provide resources to keep the boy in the school. Many other people in the area have children with special needs, and the school has the resources to deal with that. It will be heartbreaking for those children if they are thrown out of the community. We want the Government to acquire these units.
Every member of the group wants the site to be acquired and wants it to be bought. We want the Government to buy this unit and set it up as an affordable mortgage scheme with a low affordable mortgage rate to enable us to buy these houses and remain in our community. I pay €1,450 in rent for a three-bedroom house. There is no way that I will be able to raise €16,000 for the scheme the council has set up in which one takes a loan from the council to buy a house. As it is very difficult to be able to save up to €16,000 to buy a house, we are appealing to the committee to look into our condition. As members are aware, in November and December of 2015, the Department acquired 44 units in Waterville, Dublin 15, and it only cost €13 million to acquire these homes. We are appealing here for the Government to come to our rescue from the hands of the vulture fund and to acquire these units to keep each one of us there. Were it to be set up as an affordable mortgage scheme, each one of us would buy. Those who are in receipt of rental allowance could rent under any scheme the Government wishes to set up for them to enable them to remain in the community in which they have made their homes. We are presenting this proposal today for the Government to consider.
As members are aware, more than 100 houses in Tyrrelstown are coming up for sale and based on our research, this would cost the Government between €20 million and €24 million. Moreover, as the developer also owes money to the Government, that is, to a State-funded bank, why can the Government not take this money to acquire these units to keep us all in our homes to enable us to move on with our lives? We work locally and it would not look nice to throw us out and for us to end up homeless and obliged to leave where we live and work and to travel long distances to come down to Dublin to work. We are appealing today for the Government to step in and find a solution to our problem.
I will hand over to Ms Gillian Murphy, who wishes to add one or two points.
Ms Gillian Murphy:
I thank the committee for having me. I am a mother of three whose eldest son is five, while my middle son is four and my baby is two. My middle son has special needs and was diagnosed with autism in February. The impact on us since we received the eviction letter has been hard. Not only are we having sleepless nights but I must try to get a house within Dublin 15 because otherwise, my son will not get the services he needs like occupational therapy and so on. We have been told that if we leave Dublin 15, we will be taken off the list and will be starting from the end of the list again wherever we find a new home. People must wait for nearly two years to be seen to get the help for their kids. As Ms Funke Tobun said, my son is with the GAA and the kids do not wish to leave the community. All we ask is to be rescued because we are having sleepless nights and are mentally worn out.
Mr. Charlie Cleary:
As Ms Funke Tobun mentioned, I think approximately 60% of the GAA members in Tyrrelstown are foreign nationals of different nationalities, if not more. I look after the under-nines, the seniors and the juniors but when we go down for the under-nines on a Saturday morning, people of all different nationalities are out helping to put up posts, to get the pitch ready, to bring home the washing and so on. This has been building up over years with the under-nines, the under-12s and the over-12s. If an attempt is made to move them on or to try to sell their houses or whatever, the parents and those kids will leave and the community will be torn to shreds. When the parents go, their kids will go as well. I can go into more detail about the GAA if members wish. At present, the piece of land on which the GAA operates is part of NAMA. The community and the GAA got together and were obliged to fund-raise €24,000 to put into playing pitches for the kids, for the senior team and for a junior pitch. We did not really get funding from anyone but got together and worked together to put that in. They are all playing together on it now, which is brilliant but at the moment, they are threatening to put us off it.
It is not because I am here to mention pitches, but if we move off that one in the morning the GAA club will be gone. This is the only outdoor sports facility in Tyrrelstown. If it goes, the whole community will be torn to shreds again. The parents and kids will go. I cannot find words to describe how bad it will be.
Apart from that, there are other issues in Tyrrelstown. For the past two or three weeks, people have been coming to me about them. There are management companies in Tyrrelstown that are suing people in court for non-payment of fees. Those people cannot afford to pay the fees. There are 2,300 houses in Tyrrelstown, but how do management companies work there? How did they even get into Tyrrelstown? I would like to invite every member of the committee to meet us out there for an hour's walkabout to show them exactly what is happening in the area.
There is an access road to the school but no one owns it. No one is putting their hands up to say "I'm maintaining that road". All the people going to the community centre and the two schools us that road. If an accident happens there, who is liable from an insurance point of view? No one is maintaining the road. It is an eyesore for the parents and kids going to school. I do not know how long I have been bleating on about this. It was reported in the Evening Herald. I do not mean to go on because there are more important things, but what is happening to people in Cruise Park is unreal. It should not be happening. We should not be sitting here discussing it. There is no way it should be allowed. That is my opinion on the matter.
Ms Funke Tobun:
A couple of months ago, Ms Gillian Murphy and I were invited to make a presentation to the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. We asked him what he could do. He told us that the Government was in talks with this developer to acquire that unit. Since then, however, we have not heard anything. We know that the Government could purchase this unit to keep every one of us there. In this regard, we are appealing to the new Minister with responsibility for housing. We welcome the idea that the Government has established the Committee on Housing and Homelessness, as well as appointing a new Minister with responsibility for housing. We want them to start off where the previous Minister stopped, to push the developer and to acquire these units. We have nowhere to go.
I thank the witnesses, particularly those who are living through the stress of the situation, for their presentations. I do not have a question but I want to share some information, as it might be helpful in arriving at recommendations to support residents and put pressure on the Government. What is really significant about Tyrrelstown is that what the witnesses are experiencing was happening to a large number of families before this matter came to light. However, those were isolated incidents. There was a house here or there that was being repossessed, and the families involved had to deal with the matter on their own. The fact that there are now so many in such a concentrated place has shone the spotlight on a particular problem this committee needs to consider.
Some 40,000 mortgages - including mortgages on houses that the witnesses are living in - have been bought by short-term investment funds, or what we call vulture funds. The reason they are referred to as "short-term" is because they are not buying the properties to allow people to remain living in them, and taking a rental income in respect of them. The intention of these funds is that, when it suits them, they will sell the properties on irrespective of the consequences for people living there. We expect that they will sell them on shortly. Some 10,000 of those are properties that have been bought, while only the debt relating to the other 30,000 has been bought. This means that in a short period we will see many more situations similar to that at Tyrrelstown arising across the State. It is not just about trying to identify a solution that works for the witnesses' families, although we also have to do that. By finding a solution for their families, we are recommending a solution to the Government in respect of the overall problem.
My understanding is that the Housing Agency has examined these figures.
It is trying to impress upon the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government credible solutions that would allow families like these to stay in their homes and be secure in their communities in a way which would not necessarily place undue financial burden on the State because these are rental properties with rental income.
On the back of today's hearing, I would like the committee to write to the Housing Agency and to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, specifically on this issue, requesting whatever correspondence has gone between them on the types of solutions that the agency believes are practicable to keep people in their homes.
While I agree we should do that, we might also include the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, in the correspondence because he will be the final witness in these hearings. It will allow the Deputy an opportunity to question him then.
It would be useful for the committee to have that information prior to the Minister attending it. Obviously, the Tyrrelstown residents’ request is that the committee asks the new Minister what he will do with the request put to the former Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, some months ago.
There are ways for the State to facilitate the purchase of these houses. Putting in place such models would mean that when other Tyrrelstown situations emerge, as they will, families can be kept in their homes. The one immediate action the committee can take is to get that information. Accordingly, when we produce our report in several weeks’ time, it will have clear recommendations to deal with these kinds of crises. If we do not do that, families such as these, as well as the hundreds, if not thousands, of other families which are going to come down the line afterwards, will also be entering into the homelessness system. This is part of what we are trying to prevent.
The Tyrrelstown group has the support of Deputies like me, but we need that information to be able to progress solutions. We are being asked to come up with practical solutions. There are solutions and the information I am requesting would help us.
I hope the heartfelt words of the Tyrrelstown residents will be listened to by all members today. My daughter goes to school in Tyrrelstown. I know the residents all very well as I live beside the estate in question. Regarding the frustrations expressed by Charlie Cleary, this is an area that has been badly underserved by the State. It is an area of 2,000 homes, all in quite close proximity. It is the kind of high-density living that everyone was told we needed during the boom. The pitch referred to is the only outdoor sporting facility in the area. Imagine a large town anywhere else in the country limited to using such a facility. There is not yet one council-provided facility because the same developers who got these houses acquired by the vulture fund did a strange deal with the local authority. The people in Tyrrelstown are not asking for handouts but they have been badly served in terms of facilities, playing pitches and so forth. When I was on the council, we constantly had to campaign for facilities.
How did this all happen? This is relevant to some of the other discussions this committee has had about the vulture funds. The link between the vulture funds and the residents here is Beltany Property Finance, the Irish subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, which has bought these units. The Government is not neutral in this. It knew quite well that all of these portfolios were being bought up but did nothing about it. It is not an accident that this happened or that it happened behind anybody's back. Beltany spent €760 million buying portfolios in Ireland between March 2014 and March 2015. The largest portfolio was from IBRC, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. The Government had to know because the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, and the Department would have been kept regularly informed of what was being sold. Up to €89 million was paid to Ulster Bank, which owned these loans.
The reason this is relevant is because Goldman Sachs has a relationship with the Government on several fronts. It has been commissioned by the Government to investigate banks and all sorts of other matters.
We must recognise that it was Government policy to have all of these things dealt with quickly. We see the human effect of it here. It is not that I love the native Irish developer or capitalist - I do not - or that I have any special affinity with them. However, as we have heard, the difference is that in one fell swoop, 40 people can get eviction notices and be pressured to leave an area. Some people have already left because they were so afraid. One family has gone up the road to Phibsboro and is paying €2,000 in rent. Another family that has been in emergency accommodation for months left another property - that was owned by a bank - right beside where the others live. That family is in emergency accommodation and that will be the fate of these people if we allow it to happen. This is not accidental.
Looking at what is outlined in the document, the only sure-fire solution to stop people becoming homeless would involve the State acquiring these properties. There are 40 properties involved in this instance but there are potentially 150 to 200 properties because other people could get a notice at any time. Let us say it involves 100 houses. Fingal County Council has been negotiating with the developer for months. If that developer does not agree to sell them, we face a difficulty because we need the type of legislation we have been talking about, which is CPO to acquire distressed properties if the developer does not agree. The developer may agree and if so, what do we do with the people who are in them? Some of the people are on the council's housing list. We carried out a survey of the tenants affected. Two thirds of them were working and paying full rent, while roughly one third were on rent supplement. Some of the people who were paying full mortgages were on the council's list as well. My point is that we cannot just follow the usual route of turfing the people out and bringing in council tenants. That would be ridiculous. The reason I raise it is because this is what the council is talking about.
This committee must state that something new must be introduced for people in situin houses the council is buying. I suggest that those paying rent of €1,450 are more than capable of paying a mortgage. My mortgage repayment is half that amount. I bought an affordable house from the council 13 years ago. The only difficulty would be the issue of a deposit, which is why it is put into the submission. The way around that is to allow people to continue paying a much higher rent. They could continue paying €1,400 for a period, the deposit would be worked up very quickly and then it could be reduced. I am just saying that we need some imaginative ways. Those people on rent supplement or the council's housing list should be made council tenants in those properties.
The council has a tendency to want to house homeless people. We all favour that because we all deal with homeless families and we want them housed. There is, however, some reluctance on the part of councils to step in because it does not deal with their homeless lists. The reality is that the numbers on their homeless lists will increase dramatically if people are not catered for. The reason I raise this matter is because this is the first template for vulture fund properties and these are some of the issues in respect of which we must make recommendations.
While I agree with the Deputy, to broaden the point, the recommendations must be such that they will not just be for this cohort. To return to what Deputy Ó Broin said earlier, our recommendations must be across the board.
There are two elements to it. One is the acquisition of the properties, while the other is recognising that the people in them must be serviced in different ways because they have different needs. They are not all going to be mortgage schemes or local authority tenants. There will be a mix and this must apply in the broader community if the State manages to buy them. They will form part of the work we need to do.
I disagree, however, with the resolution proposed by Deputy Coppinger.
This is where we can do something and have a great deal in common. The Chairman will be equally shocked to know that a number of my constituents live in Tyrrelstown, Ongar and various other places and they come to me on a regular basis. Like every other member, I have a general knowledge of the position. I agree the answer to the problem is not to put people who are in houses on the side of the road. We cannot afford, as a society, to allow that to happen without doing serious damage to our society.
We should consider who should pick up the tab. There is not much sense in the local authority deciding to buy houses that have tenants or people in them. That will not add to the housing stock. They will end up buying property that other people owned previously and relieving them of the responsibility, which will cost the State in any event. I do not see why investors who purchased the properties for whatever reason should fail to take responsibility for ensuring rents are not raised dramatically in a short period. They should wait their turn until it is possible to make the provision required for the people concerned. I have come across this in my own constituency and in neighbouring constituencies, as has everyone around the table. A venture capitalist has two options: invest in a bank, for which he or she will receive a return of 0.5% or 1%, or invest in property, for which he or she might achieve a 10% or 20% increment on an annual basis. In some cases during the boom, such an individual achieved increases of 400% or 500%. It is crucial that we all agree to that. There is no scenario in which we can countenance the creation of homelessness for whatever economic reason, because that is our responsibility as public representatives.
As Deputy Coppinger said, it is important that we empathise with the fact that a house is not just a house standing free by itself. That is not the entirety of what is required. People also need a community and the recreational space that goes with it. The Deputy is correct that there was a lack of emphasis on these issues during the boom, but not all of us agreed with that. Many of us strongly objected to the fact that there was a concentration of high-density development which provided little other than a place to sleep at night in a confined space, as the committee has discussed over the past number of weeks. These are not acceptable places for people to live in or in which a community should exist and take its normal place in society. Now is the time, as development plans are being drafted all over the country, to say to local authority members that they must provide community facilities as well, because that is part of what living is about.
The issue of management fees has been mentioned. They are atrocious. I was a voice in the wilderness when management fees of €2,000 or €3,000 annually were regarded as a worthwhile proposition. People who previously had had difficulty paying rates were suddenly expected to pay multiples of that amount. We need to examine what we will do about that and to recognise that putting people in a worse position that than they were in previously will not solve our housing problem.
If a person is homeless, could potentially become homeless, is living in cramped, overcrowded conditions, or has someone with special needs in the household, it is a challenging position at any time. That must be recognised. The potential threat of homelessness exacerbates the situation. People need to be close to community facilities, including schools, care centres, hospitals and so on, where they have established community reliance and support.
The issues the witnesses mentioned are not new to us - we know about them. The witnesses are right that we need to do something about them and we need to do it in the short term. I am concerned about the quick fix. What I am most concerned about at this stage is that we try to ensure that venture capitalists recognise that they have a social responsibility. The banking system in this country did not do itself any great honour over a period which eventually resulted in the situations that we are discussing now. They have some moral responsibility in these matters. I do not expect them to hand over dosh to us on an ongoing basis. There is nothing in life for free and we must recognise that. The witnesses know that too. I do not wish to offer the people soft options. We need to ensure that investors of that kind, with that intention, recognise that we expect them to display their social obligations of which they have many. Now is the time to show it.
The witnesses very adequately set out the case and I find myself in agreement with Deputy Ó Broin in saying that, as a committee, we are not looking at Tyrrelstown in isolation or as it being the public face of a potential problem, as was referred to in the opening presentation. That is important. All the previous speakers, including Deputy Durkan, referred to the difficulties involved.
I want to pick up on one point Deputy Durkan made on which I am in slight disagreement but I do not mean to be controversial in any way. The Deputy talks about the moral and social responsibility of the venture capital funds. From the point of view of the committee, we cannot trust in that. We need to make a recommendation that ensures a satisfactory level of responsibility is accepted. There has to be a degree of certainty. I do not disagree that they should have it but the committee's recommendation must be one that carries some substance to ensure that responsibility is-----
-----if we are seen to cave in to that and to move away from the pressure created by the venture capitalists, then we have lost before we start. I strongly urge that we keep that in mind. I know what people will say to that. I expect venture capitalists in those sorts of circumstances to recognise that if they have bought properties - under whatever conditions - there are people in situwho have an expectation of remaining there for some considerable time until the State or other agencies can resolve the problem. We may disagree on it but I sat across the table from the same venture capitalists to whom the Chairman is referring.
I am not disagreeing with the Deputy. I am saying the committee's responsibility is not just to rely on that. We must come forward with a recommendation to ensure it happens. That is the differentiation I am making. The Deputy talks about their moral and social responsibilities, which they may well have, but our recommendations have to be a bit more binding than depending on those responsibilities being honoured. That is the point I was trying to make.
I will clarify one thing. People might not understand that the developer who built these houses owns them. The crash came and he could not sell them. If the State was to buy them, I do not see that as caving in. It would add to the housing stock and I will tell the Chairman why. At least half of the people involved are on the council's housing list in any event and could become council tenants. The council used to do affordable housing and that is very important because there are many people who do not qualify for council housing because their incomes are too high.
If one takes the estate where I live, which is up the road from Tyrrelstown, there were 400 affordable houses all built by the council and there are 100 social council tenants all mixed in together. It works perfectly well. It would be no different if the council bought these 100 houses. It would benefit from the mortgages people would pay and it would also have a number of people off its list.
Going back to the presentation, it is not that there is a simple choice between us calling on the banks or, in this case, the investment funds to do something or else the State picks up the full tab. There are a range of options available and the difficulty with Deputy Durkan's point is that the Minister, Deputy Noonan, will not agree with the kind of legislation required to make those short-term investment funds or vulture funds do what we would like. We know that as he has already said it on the record. There are other solutions available, somewhere in the region of what Deputy Coppinger is speaking about. There are options and we must pursue that path.
I apologise to the witnesses as I had to leave. Something happened over which I had no control. I heard a little of the presentation outside as well. This is very complex. Deputy Coppinger stated a survey was done and two thirds of those surveyed were working, with one third on rent supplement. How many units were surveyed? Was it 40, 100 or 200?
Okay. There is no simple solution to this and the witnesses have already heard different views. It is beholden on this committee to explore whatever options there can be. We do not have the answers, or I certainly do not. Other people are involved who may be able to guide us on the options and we must look at all of them. We must try to facilitate people who, like the witnesses, live in rented accommodation and who now find themselves waiting to be put out of their homes. Although I did not see the presentation, I know by looking at the witnesses that they are under a lot of stress. Anybody, particularly those with young children, living in a home where the children can go to school nearby and where there is involvement with the community would want to remain in that home.
I sympathise with the witnesses and I do not wish to be bad in saying that. As a committee we must explore options but it is not up to us today to create those options. Such options must be found as there is nothing to be lost. Only gains can be made if we try in this respect. The witnesses are only a few of probably many people who will find themselves in this position over the next couple of years. They are as important as the other hundred or more people involved with this. As a committee member, when we explore the options I will certainly be very open to formulating a viable option to keep people in their homes.
The witnesses make a very compelling case, especially for the community they have built, the lives they have chosen and their success. I want to get this clear in my head. The party buying a house and renting it out, whether it is a vulture fund, a Deputy or Senator or a businessperson, can put an end to a contract provided that party indicates it is to sell the property, leaving a three-month notice for vacating the property. Is that the kernel of the issue? It is the problem. In other words, there might be a guarantee, provided the landlord does not sell the house, that there will not be a rent review for two years but the problem arises when the party sells the house. That is putting the pressure on the witnesses and others in the estate, even those with varying lengths of tenancies. This is also relevant to the 300,000 people renting in this State.
It is an issue across the board. I will discuss the vulture funds shortly.
There is a deeper issue here for whoever is the landlord. How does one create a situation where, effectively, the tenants can stay? What one is really saying is that they cannot sell the house for a stated period to give longer-term security to the tenants who are in place. As Deputy Durkan said, there could be such a situation until there was a help-to-buy scheme or until other strategies could come into play. In other words, notwithstanding the fact that one might want to sell, and I do not know if this can be done legally, one is saying that one cannot sell until we come up with solutions - each one being different - to this problem. If a person is lucky enough to afford a mortgage, that is one thing. If he or she is on social welfare, he or she has a different capacity. The issue is deeper, notwithstanding the points that have been made.
Could we invite some of these vulture funds to appear before the committee? Could we ask Mr. Goldman Sachs and Co. - let us refer to the company as a personality rather than a conglomerate - to appear before the committee and ask them to explain what would be a solution for them? I refer to what the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, said to the committee when asked about this matter. If I recall correctly, he said that the vulture funds might be in a position to do a better deal than the person from whom they bought the properties because they got a bigger discount in the price. That is an issue we could pursue.
It is very complex. I do not disagree with anybody present. I support the witnesses' objectives - to stay in their homes, that they should not have to leave unless or until they are happy to go and that the stability of their lives is guaranteed in so far as it can be by whatever process we can put in place to assist that. Ultimately, however, we cannot stop people or entities from selling the houses if they are landlords.
It has been clearly identified that this matter is complex and that there is more than one issue involved. There has also been some discussion about the right of people to sell or not. It is unusual in the residential property market that units are sold with vacant possession. If one is selling a commercial unit and there is a rent roll, the rent roll normally dictates the selling price. That is a matter for the committee to examine in its deliberations. At this stage, I will hand back to the residents if they wish to speak on any of the points.
Ms Funke Tobun:
Most of us have taken this case to the PRTB. We have challenged the eviction letter and some of us have found that it is invalid. The landlord has breached contracts by not fixing the house. We are taking this just to buy time for the Government to come in. These are 40 families. This is not about tenants; we are one community. If people know Tyrrelstown well, they will know that all those who live there are as one. We are appealing to the committee today. We are grateful for the invitation to come here to present our case. We want the committee to examine it. Almost 90% of the 40 families are working. Only a small number of them are on housing allowance. We are appealing to the committee to devise an affordable model to keep us in our community and our homes so we can move on with our lives and continue the jobs we do within our community.
Mr. Charlie Cleary:
Could the people in the houses buy them from the developer? Only one thing is preventing them from buying. They are able to pay €1,500 a month in mortgage or rent. Perhaps there could be some type of agreement with the bank and developer whereby they could buy them. Some of the houses there cost €550,000 and they are worth just over €200,000 now. Instead of the vulture funds buying them, could the residents who are working there and the council buy them off the developer for the standard price or the going rate?
Ms Funke Tobun:
Most of us would not get mortgage approval. We are paying very high rent. I am paying €1,450 for a three-bedroom house. It is difficult for me to save up for a deposit. That would be about €20,000 to €30,000. My husband is a taxi driver and I am a care assistant. We are giving all the money we make back to the landlord, so we have nothing left. That is why we are appealing today for the committee to look into this proposal to find a solution. It should look into the rent of the house. The landlord has too much power over the tenants. The committee should look to keep the tenants in their houses, rather than being woken by a landlord telling them they are being evicted and throwing them out on the street. This is happening to 40 people and we do not know who is going to be in this position next, so we are appealing today that the committee, the housing Minister and all the Deputies would look into our proposal and come to our rescue before we end up on the street. We already have 265 families in homeless shelters in Dublin 15. How many more are going? We are looking at around 200 children and their families going by the end of the year. We are appealing for a solution fast.
Ms Gillian Murphy:
I am one of the people who is getting rent allowance. There is another family with a child with autism and she is under so much stress. There are not many of us who are getting rent allowance. We would like to keep paying the rest and stay in our home. We just want the community to stay together. We do not want to leave the community; we want to keep it as one, as it has been.
Ms Funke Tobun:
Her rent is €1,400 and she is topping it up. Mine is €1,450 and it has three bedrooms. She is topping up with over €300 every month. It is very difficult for people like that. I am working part-time, my husband is working full-time and we are struggling. This is somebody who is not working at all. The Government should look into all this and find a solution for every one of us.
Mr. Charlie Cleary:
There are apartments in the local village, where the shops and the pub have closed down. I believe that is under NAMA and is going up for sale. There are apartments above those shops and there are families living in those apartments as well. I do not know how many apartments there are, but if there are 60 apartments and there are two children in each of them, that is 120 children. If there are two parents, that is 120 parents. I would like the committee members to come out some day and view the area with me, Ms Murphy and Ms Tobun. They could just walk around the area and have a look at it. Then they might be able to understand exactly what we are talking about and what we are saying. We are not exaggerating.
If members want to travel out, we can arrange that. At this stage we will conclude the meeting. I thank the residents for their attendance here today and for their submission. It is difficult to come in and make a presentation but they did very well. They made us fully understand the situation they are facing. Their written submission will be on the website and the points they made in it are very valid.