Thursday, 30 July 2020
Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Bríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
I want to speak to amendment No. 34. I emphasise there is something slightly disconnected happening with this attempt to remove the ban on evictions. As has been said, the reason the ban on evictions was introduced was to protect public health in the middle of a pandemic. What has changed? We do not know where we are heading with this. We do not know yet whether there will be another spike in Covid that will run rampant through all sorts of congregated settings, possibly even the schools when they return. This is not an attempt to scaremonger. It is an attempt to be real. If the Minister was being real he would recognise that if the emergency period was extended then the provisions in the emergency period should remain. In particular I argue this provision should remain. I am not just picking this out from my deep and innermost thoughts because I have people coming to me on a daily basis who are fearful and insecure about the ban on evictions being lifted, not because they are in rent arrears, quite the contrary as they are up to date with their rent and they do not have a problem with finances, but because prior to Covid their landlords had either issued a notice or had indicated the tenancy was coming to an end due to various reasons, possibly to sell, to move in a family member or to refurbish. There is a swathe of apartments in Emmet Court, Inchicore, that are due to be emptied to be refurbished, with dozens of families potentially being moved out of them.
When we debated the original Bill, we tabled an amendment to strengthen the provisions already in it. This was agreed to, including by the Minister's party, Fianna Fáil, and I am sure at the time as an Opposition spokesperson on housing, the Minister voted in favour of it. This inserted subsection (7), which stated notwithstanding anything else all tenancies, including rent a room, licensee tenancies and with a specific focus on the Traveller community and council tenants, would be covered by the ban on evictions. If the amendments we have tabled fall, what will happen is that from 10 August, the floodgates on evictions will open. There will be a tsunami of evictions, not necessarily on that date but following it. If we end up in a situation whereby there is a massive increase in the number of families moving into homelessness, including children, we will go into a very dangerous situation in the middle of a pandemic.
There is something missing from the Minister's brain if he really thinks this is acceptable. It is not acceptable to do this to people. It is not acceptable to put them through this fear and insecurity and the potential of having to go into emergency accommodation while we still have not suppressed the Covid-19 virus.
It is very serious and every Deputy in the House needs to consider what button he or she hits today because when Members hit that button, they will open the tsunami come August and many families are already terrified about what the consequences could be. It just does not make sense because the Minister, who has responsibility for housing, will be faced with the fallout from this and he will not be able to cope with it, just as the previous Government, because of the type of housing policy it adopted, was not able to cope with an emergency and a housing crisis where people were pushed into homelessness on a daily basis. The Government does not have the housing stock to provide for people who are going to be evicted. The Minister is giving himself more problems but, more importantly, he is putting the population at risk, including some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. He is putting them and their children back at risk. He has no right to do this.
As I have said, all Deputies, particularly those in the Green Party, really need to consider what button they push when they vote on this because it is outrageous to even contemplate the idea that landlords could evict after 10 August on all sorts of grounds. The Minister is focusing on the question of arrears. That is fair enough but it goes way beyond that. We spelled it out in subsection (7), which is why we have tabled the amendment. Remove the date of 10 August, allow the emergency period for a ban on evictions to continue until January 2021, and allow the subsection we inserted, with the support of the Minister and his party at the beginning of the crisis, to remain.