Nothing guarantees a full-blown political blowout better than ignoring warnings of its approach.
The eviction ban has been ticking in the background since the pandemic. The housing crisis has made a minefield of the political landscape.
Clumsy handling, or tripping up over any single issue, could set off a series of detonations from which the fallout may be impossible to predict or control. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his predecessor Micheál Martin are all too aware of how it could all blow up in their faces.
Mr Varadkar has pledged that the rights of people who own property will have to be balanced against the need to protect those who would otherwise have nowhere else to live.
There is pent-up frustration on both sides here because of a failure to act before the situation became so critical. The degree of dysfunctionality within the housing market was compounded by persistent refusal to engage meaningfully with the gap between supply and demand.
Landlords are leaving the market as they feel they can no longer afford to remain, whereas tenants have nowhere else to turn.
Should they be evicted they will be out on the street. The Government can, and should be called out – along with many others before it – for allowing such a perfect storm to develop.
But the dire lack of accommodation and the need for a solution has undoubtedly become even more pressing since the invasion of Ukraine.
Our emergency accommodation is at full capacity. There are few more contentious or emotional subjects than eviction, for social and historic reasons. The rights of tenants need protecting, yet property rights also must carry weight if there is to be a viable market. Exemptions and exceptions will have to be calibrated carefully.
A sudden end to the ban at a time of such a shortage of alternative accommodation would inevitably lead to hardship. Yet a ban can hardly remain in perpetuity. But ending it, knowing there is inadequate emergency accommodation would also leave too many in a potentially vulnerable situation.
John-Mark McCafferty, who is CEO of the housing charity Threshold, told RTÉ that extending the eviction ban beyond this month would be “the least worst move”. He recognised there were negative consequences on both sides of the equation.
Like many others who are all too familiar with the human cost involved, he says the solutions lie in dealing with issues like supply, short-term lets and tax.
In the short term, smaller landlords may also need to be supported if they are to stay in business.
We have set new records on the number of homeless people. The evictions conundrum speaks once again to the State’s serial failures in housing policy.
For this to change there has to be a step-change in accelerating the delivery and volume of accommodation of all types. People must have homes: yet property rights and personal rights are also inter-linked.
Successful societies and economies flourish with a healthy respect for both.