Robin Hill apartment complex in Sandyford, Dublin; Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday
You’ll recall the Tyrrelstown amendment.
It was added to the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 before Christmas.
It had originally proposed that where a landlord proposes to sell 20 or more units in a development – within six months – the sales would be conditional on existing tenants being able to remain in the property unless there were exceptional circumstances.
During a Seanad debate on this amendment, the number was changed from 20 to five.
But on foot of advice from the Attorney General, the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney increased this figure, from five to 10.
Readers may also wish to note how director of advocacy Focus Ireland Mike Allen in January stated that “a third of families who are becoming homeless in Dublin are becoming homeless because their landlord has been forced to sell up“.
Further to this.
Richard Boyd Barrett spoke about the Tyrrelstown amendment in an interview with Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio One this morning, in regards to an apartment development, called Robin Hill, in Sandyford, Dublin 4, which went into Nama and was then subsequently sold to Cerberus.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council requested to buy 15 of the apartments in May of last year but was told it would have to buy the entire complex.
This morning, Jack Fagan, in The Irish Times reports that the complex is on sale, in one lot, from today with a guiding price of €14million.
According to Mr Boyd-Barrett, some of Robin Hill’s tenants are now facing eviction.
During the Seán O’Rourke show:
Seán O’Rourke: “I quote the minister [for housing Simon Coveney] from what he said yesterday. He said, and this is regard to protecting people who are there in an apartment block being sold. He said, if 10 or more properties are being sold in one sale, then people who have tenancies in the apartments affected get protected through that sale and I said I’ve asked Richard, in other words you, to send me the details of any cases or any individual issues he has. Now surely that reflects an openness on the minister’s part?”
Richard Boyd-Barrett: “No, first of all, when I raised this issue on Tuesday, the minister did not contact me and ask me, he didn’t in the Dáil, or afterwards, ask me for the details of Robin Hill. That’s simply not true.”
“Secondly, what the legislation refers to, actually means is, that the vulture fund or landlord can evict nine people and then six months later, by the way, the legislation will allow them to evict another nine people. And six months after that, another nine people.
“So, this figure of 10 – which was never explained why we had to include it. We, at the time of the legislation sought to bring that down to zero. In other words that, if you were selling a multi-unit development, you would have to sell it with the tenants in situ and guarantee the security of tenure and the Government resisted that, for reasons I don’t understand but it now seems for reasons that benefitted vulture funds who are trying to profiteer at the expense of tenants they want to evict or massively increase rents.”
In the Dáil.
Readers may wish to recall the exchange Mr Boyd Barrett had with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during Leaders’ Questions, in respect of Robin Hill.
Richard Boyd Barrett: “I will cite a very concrete example of how decisions the Government made in the past six months have contributed directly to this shambles and the hardship that follows. Robin Hill, a development of apartments in Balally in Sandyford, was originally built by the McEvaddy brothers in 2008. The development, which consists of 52 apartments, went into NAMA at some point.
For most of the time it has been in NAMA, at least 15 and possibly as many as half of the apartments have been empty while the housing crisis spirals out of control. In May 2016, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council asked whether it would purchase 15 of the vacant units. It was told that it could only buy the entire block.
Shortly after the Project Eagle scandal broke in September, NAMA agreed the sale of Project Gem, which included these apartments, to the vulture fund Cerberus. The sale, which was one of the biggest sales of property in the history of the State, went through.
Since then, Cerberus has moved to start evicting the tenants in a block that is still half empty. Of the 21 remaining tenants I have met, five are to be evicted in June.
Others whom Cerberus feels it cannot evict straight away have been told they must pay an extra €250 per month in heating and hot water charges that were previously included in the rent. They were never charged for that previously. In other words, this is a back-door rent increase of about 20%.
These empty units are sitting there while we have record numbers in homeless accommodation with evictions to follow. This would have been avoidable if NAMA had not sold this development to a vulture fund but had given it to the local authority as it requested and if the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government had ensured his Bill before Christmas included a provision to prevent new owners from evicting tenants when apartments are sold, as we warned would happen, or finding back-door ways to ratchet up rents. Is it not the truth that the crisis is avoidable and has resulted from the Government’s policy failures?”
Enda Kenny: “No, it is not the truth. The problem here is the supply of houses throughout the country. Anyone can understand that there is real pressure in certain segments of the housing sector. The Deputy can nod his head if he likes. I read a report this morning that said that 49 houses priced between €400,000 and €700,000 were snapped up inside a day by those who could afford them. There are no difficulties in certain areas.
It is true to say that there is a serious issue here. A total of 40,000 vacant units have been bought by the State in the past five years.
Boyd-Barrett: “A fantasy figure has just appeared, namely, that the State has apparently purchased 40,000 houses. The more accurate truth is that NAMA has flogged off thousands of homes or, worse, as the Balally example indicates, has sat on empty properties in public ownership and when local authorities sought to purchase them, it refused and chose to sell them to a vulture fund instead.”
“The vulture fund is now moving to evict people, bypass the Minister’s totally inadequate legislation and ratchet up the rent on tenants it cannot immediately evict. I suspect, and the tenants fear, that they will be evicted in phases because under the Tyrrelstown amendment, no more than ten tenants may be evicted at one time, which is leading to landlords evicting tenants en bloc. That is almost certainly the case and the Taoiseach allowed it to happen by selling apartment blocks.”
“How many more Balallys are there? How many more in Project Gem? How many more people will get eviction notices from vulture funds to which NAMA sold properties at a massive discount rather than give them to the local authorities. There are 50,000 empty properties in Dublin. The Balally situation indicates why there is a supply problem in spite of that. That is the real issue. It is not an absolute supply problem, it is a man-made one resulting from the behaviour of NAMA and the vulture funds, which are sitting on empty properties, evicting people in order to inflate property prices and rents and make more profit from the misery of those they evict or who cannot afford to rent such properties.
Kenny: “Let me clarify what I meant when I said that 40,000 properties have come back into use.”
Bríd Smith: “That is not what the Taoiseach said.”
Pearse Doherty: “That is not what was said.”
Kenny: “I take the Deputy’s point. One thousand properties were purchased by the State at a cost of €203 million.
Doherty: “One thousand.”
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: “That is 39,000 fewer than the original figure the Taoiseach gave.”
Transcript via Oireachtas.ie
Listen back to this morning’s Today With Seán O’Rourke here
Listen back to yesterday’s interview with Minister for Housing Simon Coveney here