Wednesday, 29 July 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I want to raise something the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, suggested in the Dáil last week in response to a question from Deputy Ó Broin. He said that a report carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute did not find significant rent arrears during the first three months of Covid-19. At that stage the report had not been published but it was published yesterday. The Minister's spin on it was slightly different from what the authors said. They found that before Covid, about 70,000 households did not have sufficient income remaining after housing costs to cover a minimum standard of living expenditure. They also suggested that about one in ten non-supported rental households, meaning people who were not receiving rent allowance or the housing assistance payment, missed payments due to financial difficulties prior to the pandemic. They said that despite the "very short-term effects [which are] unique to the time in which households have been advised to stay at home and restrict movements", many non-supported private renters face longer-term structural affordability pressures that are likely to worsen quickly. The authors conclude that while their "analysis focuses solely on the immediate, short-run time frame, it is likely that the scale of the COVID-19 shock is such that, the longer the duration of the downturn, the higher the missed payments, and consequently, arrears rate will climb." That is very different from what the Minister said when he did not find any significant rent arrears.
We then cut to the launch of the stimulus plan, when we see absolutely no support for renters. The buy to let scheme is going to be extended by €10,000 yet we know from other research that 40% of those availing of it already have deposits.The anecdotal evidence is that the cost of new housing has gone up as a result of this. This week we will have the Minister in the House for the flawed, narrow Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020. It does not protect renters but criminalises them. It applies the eviction ban only until January for a very narrow cohort of renters who self-declare. It does not provide for retrospective self-declaration and it is not clear what it is. We could have used the stimulus plan to support renters and alleviate arrears rather than spinning it that there was not significant arrears and portions being brought up. Renters are the people in this economy who are most vulnerable. Most renters going into homelessness are coming from the private rented sector. I look forward to discussing the Bill at the end of the week, but without the spin by the Minister that there are no significant rent arrears gathered.