The Opposition motion over lifting the eviction ban is just playing politics, the Tánaiste has said, claiming that the tenant in situ scheme to buy rental properties from landlords was already being put to use to save people from homelessness.
Micheál Martin said the focus and challenge for Government now is getting houses and apartments built faster to catch up with population growth.
He said that the tenant in situ scheme, whereby local authorities will be directed to buy homes for sale where tenants are renting, is already being taken up by city and county councils and was key to tackling the current housing crisis.
Next week’s no-confidence motion in the Government is being “done for political purposes”, he said, and he expressed full confidence that the Government would win it because Government is "working well".
He denied there would be “any bargaining” with Independents to secure more votes for Government, but that they would be open to suggestions from parties and Independents on addressing the housing crisis.
“What I’m interested in is the housing issue and getting more houses built and getting them built faster,” Mr Martin said. “We have made a quantum shift in housing but given the scale of the challenge in housing we have to do much more.”
Some 1,600 people exited homelessness in Q4 of 2022 — a 25% increase from Q4 in 2021 — which demonstrated that government policies were working, he said.
“We want to prevent homelessness. I think the way to do it now is to increase the direction to the county and city councils to buy the properties where tenants are in situ and at risk of being made homeless.
“Last night, I spoke to some city and county councillors who said there are some cases now where that is happening.
“Where it’s not happening, we want to know about it and then we’ll focus on that council and engage to make sure people don’t end up in homeless situations where the council can buy the house.
"The previous two eviction bans were introduced at times of major international crises — covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine which drove fuel prices up over winter.
“They were specific emergency contexts. But now we have to get the housing market right. If we kept the eviction ban going it would do more harm than good.”
He slammed calls for tenants to overhold on their properties, staying on past the terms of their lease, saying that such actions would deter landlords from entering and staying in the rental market and would ultimately make the rental property shortage worse.
The Tánaiste was speaking at the opening of new social housing in Charleville, Co Cork, in an iconic building where former President Éamon de Valera had once attended school but which had fallen into disuse for many years.
The building was converted into nine bright, spacious apartments with the potential for a 10th through the Peter McVerry Trust and Cork County Council.
“It’s an illustration of the types of developments that are happening all over the country now in terms of social housing provision through approved housing bodies such as the Peter McVerry Trust,” he said.
Such housing schemes also aid in the renewal of town centres like Charleville, which has also benefitted from an investment of up to €6m for a major new arts centre in the town through the rural development fund and Cork County Council," he said.
“So what we are witnessing now in very real time is the rejuvenation of town centres and with the Croí Cónaithe town fund [a grant scheme to renovate vacant and derelict buildings] as well there’s even further opportunities for derelict buildings as well, such as this, to be rejuvenated, repurposed for housing, social and affordable housing, and I think that’s the way forward in terms of the housing issue.”