Tuesday 23 January 2018

Homelessness campaigners warned against occupying more Nama buildings

Campaigners outside Apollo House as the last remaining people left the building. Photo: Stephen Collins
Campaigners outside Apollo House as the last remaining people left the building. Photo: Stephen Collins

Philip Ryan and Ian Begley

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has warned homelessness campaigners against illegally occupying buildings after the final activists vacated Apollo House in Dublin.

Mr Coveney praised the Home Sweet Home campaign group for raising awareness around the issue facing homeless people, but insisted occupying other Nama buildings would not resolve the problem.

"I obviously don't approve of taking over buildings illegally. I don't think that's helpful, but that's what happened here and I as a minister have to deal with what's in front of me and I spoke to people in a respectful way," he told the Irish Independent yesterday.

The minister insisted his hand was not forced by the campaign group and said those staying in Apollo House did not get favourable treatment.

"This is about helping all homeless people. There is no skipping the queue or anything like that, but I have reassured people in the Home Sweet Home campaign that we will look after the homeless people," he added.

A senior Department of Housing source last night insisted all accommodation provided to those who were in Apollo House had been available before they occupied the building in December.

Residents say their final goodbyes. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Residents say their final goodbyes. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Residents started vacating Apollo House at about 9.45am and the majority had vacated the premises by 10.15am.

However, one person stayed in the building following the end of the occupation. It is understood this person later left the building.

Home Sweet Home spokeswoman Rosie Leonard said the 72 residents had received accommodation for six months.

Meanwhile, Fr Peter McVerry has said the homeless crisis could get significantly worse if landlords continue to evict tenants to make way for their family members. Speaking at the official launch of the Anti-Evictions Bill, Fr McVerry said the bill proposed to end dubious evictions by ending the 'family member rule' which gives landlords the right to terminate a tenancy if a member of their family wishes to move into their property.

The legislation being pushed by the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) and People-Before-Profit, also proposes to make landlords who replace tenants with family members pay six months' rent to evictees, a law imposed in other countries such as the Netherlands.

Another aspect of the bill proposes to double the current notice period from 90 days to 180 days. The bill is expected to help to end mass evictions and "declaw" vulture funds.

"During the Famine, Irish people were being evicted from their homes because they couldn't afford to pay their rent; today, we have exactly the same situation," Fr McVerry said.

AAA TD Ruth Coppinger said that much too often landlords were abusing the 'family member rule' as a method of removing long-term tenants to increase rent on their property.

Irish Independent

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