New Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy with Focus Ireland founder Sister Stanislaus and CEO Ashley Balbirnie at Harold’s Cross this morning
Remember former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s claim that he would ensure all homeless families would be out of hotel accommodation by July 1?
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said the Government is going to miss its deadline of 1 July for moving homeless families from temporary hotel accommodation.
He said the 650 families involved will be moved straight into family hubs or other accommodation or they will be notified in writing of where they are going in the coming weeks.
…Mr Murphy was speaking at the opening of 28 housing units in the grounds of Harold’s Cross Hospice in Dublin. The units are owned and operated by Focus Ireland and built on a site donated by the Sisters of Charity.
Mr Murphy said that the review of Rebuilding Ireland is continuing and it is a good time to look at what new measures or powers might be needed. He said the Taoiseach has told him to think big and no idea is too radical.
“The issue of Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street which is currently being modified to become a family hub to house homeless families. A constituent contacted my office yesterday, very distressed, that she, along with her two young boys, were placed in Lynam’s Hotel late on Monday night. They arrived to find the place without running water or electricity in the room and she felt very unsafe.”
“I understand that Lynam’s is being offered as a late-night solution when no other family accommodation can be found, instead of sending families to Garda stations as has happened recently. Yet, Lynam’s is still a building site.
“Anthony Flynn, of Inner City Helping Homelessness charity, went to the property yesterday with Dublin Fire Brigade and I understand that a full inspection is being carried out today. And there’s a photo on social media of a fire escape chained shut and I understand members of the fire brigade did declare the building a fire hazard last night.
“But, in the light of this, and I also understand young students and family, including four children, minister, were today evacuated from 24, Mountjoy Square over safety issues and that a fire safety notice was issued for this property in August 2016, so minister can you now outline what other occupied properties around Dublin have fire safety notices indicating the address and date of issue for the fire safety for each property. How can tenants be left in a property which has had a fire safety notice for almost a year? I’ve asked your senior minister, Deputy Murphy, to act urgently on this.”
Dublin City Council says the Housing Minister has pulled out of appearing at its monthly meeting later. Simon Coveney hasn’t explained why he can’t make it to discuss tackling the city’s homeless problem.
A spokesperson from the Department of Housing told 98FM that Minister Coveney is simply “not available” for [yesterday] evening’s meeting.
Fine Gael leadership candidates Simon Coveney (left) and Leo Varadkar (right) on the hustings last week
Of the choice awaiting Fine Gael…
Gene Kerrigan writes:
…In the real world, the great majority work because we want to work, and it pays better than the dole, and it opens possibilities for the future.
The great majority of us respect one another. We are occasionally let down, but mostly we recognise ourselves – our ambitions, our fears and our satisfactions – in the lives of our neighbours.
And where our neighbours are brought down by circumstance we wish them well, we hold fundraisers and we send them cards with flowers on them.
And when we’re occasionally brought down ourselves, we’re thankful for the helping hand that keeps us going.
We don’t share the miserable contempt and suspicion of humanity that both Varadkar and Coveney have displayed in this competition between the second-rate politician and the third rate.
These wretched people, so mistrustful of their fellow citizens, are in the process of waving goodbye to a beloved Taoiseach.
A Taoiseach who lost an election in 2007, couldn’t get a majority in 2011, took a hammering in 2016, who helped fashion a prosecutorial system that can’t prepare statements for a trial; who presides over hospitals where people die on trolleys in noisy corridors; who can’t keep track of the number of scandals that have afflicted the police force; who still seems complacent about the number of people sleeping on the streets..
…And as he leaves, two of those who helped him make this country what it sorrowfully has been reduced to are competing to replace him. And doing so in campaigns that offer a little hope, wrapped in a whole lot of suspicion and hate.
During the fourth and final Fine Gael leadership hustings, a man called Joseph (top) asked about direct provision. He said thousands of Irish people can see the direct provision system is an act of disrespect to humanity.
He then asked how either Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar would address this, if they became Taoiseach.
He also said:
“The [Bryan] McMahon Report recommends safeguards to ensure that no one is left in the asylum system longer than five years. What are your intentions regarding the people who have been in the asylum system for over five years, especially those who are not eligible to have the single application accessed under the new single procedure or people who are on deportation orders?”
From their responses:
Simon Coveney said:
“First of all, in relation to people who’ve been here for many years and who are essentially in limbo, because they are, because for many people, it’s actually almost impossible for the Department of Justice to establish a number of the facts that they’re trying to establish around people who are here as to whether they should be eligible for asylum or not.
“And so people just are here in that state of unknowing what the future holds and I do think if we advocate, as we do, for undocumented Irish in the US, to have a path to be able to regularise their own position. I believe, also in Ireland, we should allow for an opportunity for people to regularise their position over time if they’ve been here for many years.
“I also think that it is no way to actually cater for people who are waiting for asylum decisions here, beyond a certain period of time, for people to be in direct provision. People who want to make a contribution, people who are essentially living with very small amounts of money per week and with the State subsidising their lives, but really unable to make any positive contribution to society for various different reasons in terms of barriers that are put in place.
“And I do think we need to move away from that. In a way, of course those, that ensures that we make decisions firmly and fairly in relation to asylum applications and of applications in relation to refugees.
“But I do think what we have at the moment is a system that takes far too long to make decisions and therefore we’re asking families and individuals to stay in conditions which are not conducive to contributing in a positive way to society. And I know Joseph well, he’s a great guy. But there is change in this area that’s needed and of course that puts more pressure on a minister like me, in terms of social housing provision which is why we’ve committed €5.5billion to a social housing build programme that’s going to add 47,000 social houses.”
Leo Varadkar said:
“I suppose the idea of direct provision, when it was first established, I think it was probably back in the 1990s at this stage, was that people would be in direct provision for a couple of months while their applications for asylum or refugee status would be decided on and if they got status, they would then leave direct provision. If they didn’t, then they’d obviously would have to leave the country if they were found not to be eligible for refugee status or asylum status.
“The real problem is that people are now staying so long in direct provision. And there actually are people who have status, who’ve been given leave to remain, who’ve been given refugee status, but are still living in direct provision because there is no housing available for them. That’s a terrible situation to be in for people, they are still living in Mosney for example, the old Butlin’s camp, who have been given status but there is no homes for them to go to and I think that’s really, really difficult for us as a society to stand over.
“I do think things will improve. We brought through new legislation, Minister [Frances] Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice, has finally, after a lot of hard work, successfully brought through the International Protection Act. And that’s going to change things, cause at the moment you can apply for different statuses, you can apply for different types of statuses at different times. And under the new rules, you’ll apply for all types of status on day one.
“So, at the moment, you might apply for refugee status, not get that, apply for leave to remain, then not get that, then judicial review it, she’s going to streamline that whole process so decisions are going to be made a lot quicker and I think that’s a real step forward and it’s a tribute to her and Dave Stanton, in fact, for getting through that legislation.
“One thing I’d like to see examined. I haven’t studied it in detail myself so I don’t want to make a definite commitment on it but I do think people who are in the country for a long period of time, whose status hasn’t been decided on, we should consider giving them the right to work. It must be a very frustrating thing to be in a country, you’re waiting on a decision, you want to work, you want to contribute, you want to make money for your family, you want to give something to the society you’re now living in and I think that’s something we need to take a long, hard look at.”
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night
On Tonight with Vincent Browne.
In a pre-recorded interview with Fine Gael’s Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, who is running in the Fine Gael leadership race against Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar…
Mr Coveney said he is different to Mr Varadkar who, earlier this week, said he wants to lead a party for “people who get up early in the morning.”
In addition, Mr Coveney said “those people are as important to me as people who pay for everything” referring to people in receipt of social welfare payments.
The Housing Minister also called for people to judge him based on his actions, pointed to his €5.5billion social housing plan.
From the interview…
Simon Coveney: “I think there is a choice for the party that’s quite different.”
Vincent Browne: “Tell us the choice, between one person who says what and the other person says. Tell us both.”
Coveney: “I will. What I have been talking about is a party that represents everybody. Unlike most parties in the country at the moment, many of the smaller parties in particular, focus on niche areas in society and only represent that group of people and then actually get political traction on the basis of division and anger and protest.”
“What I’m talking about is Fine Gael representing someone who is unfortunately in a sleeping bag tonight on the streets of Dublin, as well as supporting people who are creating thousands of jobs. And supporting them and celebrating that success.
“This is a party that I joined and it’s a party that I’ve been a part of for nearly two decades of my working life that I believe has to get the best out of everybody regardless of their limitations or disabilities or social disadvantage or whatever. And…”
Browne: “Ok, that’s what you stand for…tell us how…”
Coveney: “I am not the kind of person that talks about Fine Gael only representing the person that gets up early in the morning.”
Browne: “And that’s what you stand for. Now tell us how that differs from what Leo Varadkar stands for?”
Coveney: “Well I think that is my vision for the country, is one…no, let me finish now and I’ll get to your question.”
Browne: “Ok, good.”
Coveney: “My vision is one of social justice, as well as economic progression. And I think that the approach that I have, that Fine Gael needs to reach out to people who don’t naturally support us and who may never support us in the future but our responsibility to try and get the best out of those people in society, not in some kind of dependancy way but in an enabling way.”
“I think that is a very different message to what I’ve heard from Leo Varadkar this week when he talks about Fine Gael being the party of the person that gets up early in the morning to work. Of course those people need to be represented by Fine Gael because they pay for everything. But there are many people who need the State’s intervention to allow them fulfil their potential and those people are as important to me as people who pay for everything.”
Browne: “Ok, he’s talking…”
Coveney: “I think that is very different vision for the party.”
Browne: “Ok, he talks about a sense of, culture of entitlement in the country. Do you perceive that?”
Coveney: “I mean, I think there is a politics in Ireland at the moment, that calls for the State to deliver people’s rights on everything. A right to a house, a right to healthcare, a right to education, a right to a decent income.”
Browne: “Justice. That’s justice.”
Coveney: “Yeah it is… but the way…”
Browne: “Are you not in favour of that?”
Coveney: “The way in which you achieve it is to ensure that the State enables people to make a contribution to society, as well as a dependency on a government. And I think that is the big difference between me and the hard left. And I think, you know…judge me on what I’m actually doing. I mean, in housing policy at the moment, Vincent, people will talk about the numbers and so on. We have a huge social housing build programme that’s now under way, it’s a €5.5billion project and so on. But the real change, actually, that I’m looking to bring to social housing policy in Ireland is forcing integration.”
“I no longer accept the hard-left arguments that we should designate whole parts of cities and fill them with social housing estates in a mono-tenure way. Instead we have to ensure that social houses are part of private developments and that private housing is part of new social developments…”
Browne: “Are you suggesting that Leo Varadkar is part of the hard left?”
Coveney: “No, I’m not. I’m not suggesting anything about Leo Varadkar, I’m talking about myself.”
From top: An eviction letter to a tenant of Robin Hill, and another outlining how existing tenants will have to pay a deposit and new bi-monthly energy bills; Minister for Housing Simon Coveney
You may recall a post from last week about the Robin Hill apartment complex in Sandyford, Dublin 4 which went up for sale last week, after it went into Nama and was subsequently sold to Cerberus.
The post detailed claims made in the Dáil by People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Richard Boyd-Barrett.
The TD said five of Robin Hill’s tenants are now facing eviction and also said those who were not being evicted straight away were told they must pay an additional €250 per month in heating and hot water charges which were not previously included in the rent.
Mr Boyd-Barrett subsequently spoke about Robin Hill and the Tyrrelstown amendment to Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio One.
This amendment was added to the Planning and Developlemt (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. This figure was later reduced to five and then increased to 10.
Mr Boyd-Barrett told Mr O’Rourke:
“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.”
Further this this.
Eleanor Burnhill, on RTÉ’s News At One, reported on eviction notices that some of the residents of Robin Hill have received from an agent acting on behalf of Grant Thornton.
They have until June 25 to vacate Robin Hill.
Ms Burnhill reported that she obtained a statement from the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney about the matter.
“He says he is aware of the Robin Hill case. The statement says the Minister has indicated that if there is evidence that legislation is being circumvented, by companies selling off units in batches of less than 10, he will revisit this area generally.
“The officials on behalf of the minister are attempting to make contact with Cerberus to discuss the issue as soon as possible.
“And in relation to the area of hot water charges that you heard in that report, he says that if there a suggestion that new charges not previously covered by the existing tenancy agreement, if they’re being introduced, then the tenants have it open to appeal to the Residential Tenancies Board, as they have done.“
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.
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 Timesreports 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.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: “That is 39,000 fewer than the original figure the Taoiseach gave.”
In an interview with Shane Beatty, of Kildare FM, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Mr Beatty raised the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton comments in the Dáil on Wednesday where he said Fine Gael won’t be bound by the assembly’s recommendations.
At the beginning, Mr Martin said he himself has a “pro-life disposition”.
They then had the following exchange:
Shane Beatty: “Just to be clear, if someone is raped by their father, for example, and becomes pregnant as a result, what’s your view on abortion in that case?”
Micheál Martin: “Well it’s not that simple Shane…”
Speak over each other
Beatty: “Well, someone’s either pregnant or not pregnant…”
Beatty: “Someone’s either pregnant or they’re not pregnant.”
Martin: “They are indeed…”
Beatty: “…so it’s not that complex?”
Martin: “Well it actually is in terms of the… in terms of, are you talking within 10 weeks? Are you talking about within 20 weeks for example?”
Beatty: “I’m talking about a father raping his daughter.”
Martin: “Well it’s not that simple. It’s just not that simple in terms of…”
Beatty: “She becomes pregnant as a result, you don’t see that as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”
Martin: “Well I don’t actually, it’s not a simple ‘yes or no’, that depends on a number of issues. That’s why…”
Beatty: “Would there be any circumstance, would there be any circumstance where a father raped his daughter, yes, go on…”
Martin: “I know people today who are alive whose mothers would have been, in one particular case, was raped and she was the outcome of that. And she gets very angry when people suggest that she should never have had a life. So this is not simple, and I think it’s an issue and I think that will be one of the issues that will come before us in the Oireachtas, to decide on that.”