Cabinet warned of long-term effect of extending moratorium on landlords
Cabinet ministers were warned that extending the controversial eviction ban would lead to “reluctance” among both small-scale and international investors in the Irish rental market.
In a strongly worded confidential memo provided to the Cabinet, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said there was “deep concern” about extending eviction bans.
His memo said it would be seen by landlords as a “serious breach of trust by government” and would undermine “their confidence in continuing their participation and growing their investment in the rental market”.
“On balance, any short-term relief provided in an extended, or further, ‘winter emergency period’ (eviction ban) would be counter-balanced in the medium-to-long term by increasing exits of landlords and a reluctance by investor, small scale or institutional, to provide private rental accommodation in the Irish market.”
He said this would cause far greater issue for those in need of emergency or social housing. Large investment funds have become major players in the rental market, but some have been dubbed “cuckoos” for buying up property in bulk and therefore blocking families from purchasing homes.
Meanwhile, several cabinet ministers raised concerns about the lack of incentives for landlords, as they agreed to lift the moratorium on evictions at the end of the month.
Senior ministers in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil warned there will be a continued exodus of property owners from the rental market if the Government does not introduce supports for landlords.
The Government has been heavily criticised since the move to end the eviction ban, with warnings from the Opposition, homelessness organisations and some of its own TDs that it would result in a big jump in the number of people becoming homeless.
The Cabinet was accused of having done nothing to improve the housing situation while the ban was in place.
Green TD Neasa Hourigan branded the move “heartless”, while her party colleague Patrick Costello called on the Taoiseach to publish the Attorney General’s advice to the Cabinet, and questioned whether continuing the ban would in fact be unconstitutional.
However, Green Party housing spokesperson Francis Noel Duffy sent a statement to members praising the “important new protections for tenants” secured by the Government. The Taoiseach said the move was the right thing to do, but “difficult to defend”.
A Cabinet sub-committee on housing was given a suite of tax measures which could be unveiled to encourage existing landlords to stay in the market while also attracting other property owners to rent their accommodation.
But the memo brought by Minister O’Brien did not outline any incentives for landlords and only said he will work with government colleagues to “develop a meaningful Budget 2024 package for the rental sector including both landlords and tenants”.
It was drafted after a meeting of government leaders and Mr O’Brien where Attorney General Rossa Fanning warned over the constitutionality of extending the eviction ban.
At the full Cabinet meeting yesterday, Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney, Justice Minister Simon Harris, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and junior minister Jack Chambers highlighted the need to support landlords.
“There will be a continued exodus from the market if something isn’t done on the taxation side, was the message coming from the ministers who spoke,” a source said.
After the Cabinet meeting, Mr O’Brien pledged to assist landlords, who he said had been “demonised”. He said the decision to end the eviction ban was not taken lightly and said it will “quite possibly” lead to people becoming homeless.