Zero Emergency Accommodation capacity in Meath as eviction ban ends

By Eoin Ryan

County Meath is currently out of capacity for emergency accommodation as no-fault evictions are no longer banned.

Sinn Féin has confirmed at least 17 local authorities have no emergency accommodation capacity remaining.

Counties Meath, Cavan, Clare, Longford, Leitrim, Monaghan, Offaly, Westmeath, Limerick and Wicklow have no remaining emergency accommodation.

All four Dublin local authorities and Galway city and county councils said they are out of capacity.

Seven authorities have not yet provided figures up to date meaning this number may be higher.

Homeless figures continuously increased every month except for a slight decrease last February since it was introduced and now stand at 11,742, 12 less than in January.

“Overall data from Threshold from November 1st to March 21st shows that Threshold advisors received queries from 1,853 renters who face eviction once the ban lifts Threshold CEO John-Mark McCafferty said. “It is highly likely that this number will exceed 2,000 by the end of the month. The Government’s decision to end the ban at the end of the month is fuelling a hopeless outlook for renters in Ireland.”

“Notices issued from July to September would have, in many cases, fallen due from February during the ban period,” TD Darren O’Rourke said. “A huge number of these notices will now fall due in April.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the majority of families with eviction notices will find accommodation and those who cannot will get emergency accommodation. He also said councils are increasing the provision of emergency accommodation to support those without a home after the ban is lifted.

Local authorities are expected to spend €350m on homeless accommodation this year, a €90m increase from last year according to Trinity College Dublin professor Eoin O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan said €250m of this will be spent on accommodation in Dublin and €100m on other countries.

New figures from the Department of Housing show last year was already a 25% increase from 2021, growing from €196m to €260m as homeless numbers continue to increase nationwide.

A seminar hosted by Focus Ireland heard approximately 80% of that amount will be spent on emergency accommodation due to the expected surge in homeless figures.

This issue is expected to be exacerbated after the government won a Dáil vote in opposition to a Sinn Féin motion seeking to extend the eviction ban, with 82 voting with the Coalition and 68 against.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien brought in the six month ban to give renters peace of mind over Christmas and the Winter months. The Taoiseach said extending this ban would lead to more landlords fleeing the rental market on top of the 21,000 who left in 2022. Rising interest rates are leaving landlords with less of a return on their investments.

There were 1,187 Properties to Rent in Ireland on as of 1st April with 39 of Fthose in Meath.

Over 4,300 eviction notices were issued in the last three months of 2022, 3,778 of which are due to fall between April and June with 116 for homes in County Meath. Landlords were still able to issue eviction notices during the ban with move out dates delayed until after the no-fault eviction ban ended.

127 eviction notices were served in Meath between July and September 2022 by landlords to tenants. 4,741 notices were given across Ireland during the same period.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said councils are increasing the provision of emergency accommodation to support those finding themselves homeless after the eviction ban is lifted.

The government pledged to bring in “safety net” measures including an expansion of the tenant-in-situ scheme. This encourages local authorities to buy homes where tenants on Housing Assistance Payments or are part of the Rental Accommodation Scheme are given an eviction notice. The current target is for 1,500 homes to be purchased under this scheme but Minister Eamon Ryan said this is set to increase.

Local Authorities will also be allowed to buy homes and operate them on a cost-rental basis for renters facing eviction who cannot afford to buy their home.

Renters will be given first right of refusal to buy their rental home if it is put on the market.

A share equity scheme will allow renters to secure 30% of the purchase price by way of a state grant, with local authorities able to offer home loans at rates lower than those available on the open market.

The Taoiseach outlined support measures for landlords to encourage them to stay in the market and a tax package for smaller landlords to encourage them to stay. Government said that both measures are expected to be implemented in the October budget.

Opposition parties condemn this decision with Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns saying the government has made a “conscious and deliberate choice to vote for mass homelessness” by ending the eviction ban.

“It does this not to improve outcomes for people but to prevent a substantive, binding vote on a decision that spells disaster for so many,” Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said in the Dáil.

“It is a deeply cynical move that demonstrates again that this Government disregards the trauma and devastation facing people from Saturday on.”

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the government, leading to her 15 month suspension.

“I can guarantee you that next month I will be sitting in constituency clinics and there will be mammies coming in to me saying, ‘I am being evicted through no fault of my own’,” Ms Hourigan told RTÉ radio.

Threshold and many other campaigners implore the government to reinstate the eviction ban due to the expectation of a record number of adults and children facing homelessness.

“The ban on evictions was to provide a ‘breathing space’ for positive changes to be implemented and improvements in supply to take place,” a Threshold spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, we are yet to see the outcome of Government action in this respect. It is disheartening to hear of the Government speaking of measures for Budget 2024. This is six months away. Renters need improved support now.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged Ireland is facing a serious housing crisis as the country runs a deficit of approximately 250,000 homes.

30,000 homes were delivered last year, the highest number since 2007, with a goal of 29,000 set for this year and an average target of 33,000 until 2030.

This leaves a shortfall of 11,000 homes, however, according to a report by Initiative Ireland saying 40,000 new homes are required this year. It also stated housing supply would need 48,000 built in 2024 and 73,000 annually for the next five years to remove the current housing shortfall.

Despite this, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said the country is “turning a corner” on housing while speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“If we can get a settled situation over this year, I think we will make further progress in terms of building houses,” Martin said.

Varadkar said he would never say there was an acceptable degree of homelessness, and there would always be a certain number of people who need emergency accommodation, “But that’s a small number and it should only be for a few weeks.”

Meath tenants issued a notice of termination are advised to contact Meath County Council for advice and support in this regard.

Tenants unable to find accommodation will be assessed for social housing support and advised on the level of Housing Assistance Payment they may be eligible for. The council will assess if it can acquire the tenants house if it is up for sale.

Meath County Council also advises evicted tenants to contact the Residential Tenancies Board, Threshold or other tenant support services for support and advice on tenant rights.

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