RESPONSIBILITY LIES WITH THE GOVERNMENT Sinn Féin TD, Rose Conway-Walsh.
As the Government prepares to lift the ban on no-fault evictions, fears are growing that Mayo’s homelessness problem is about to get a lot worse.
One hundred and sixty two people are now accessing emergency accommodation in Mayo. This includes 76 children.
The Government is due to lift the ban at the end of the month, despite warnings from politicians and charities about a consequent increase in homelessness.
Shocking and shameful
Commenting on the lifting of the eviction ban, Mayo Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh called for emergency measures to increase and accelerate the delivery of social and affordable housing.
These included the expansion of the ‘tenant in-situ’ scheme, the use of emergency planning and procurement powers, and the targeting of vacant and derelict properties, as well as new building technologies.
Deputy Conway-Walsh described the Mayo property market as ‘totally unfit for purpose’ and described the lifting of the eviction ban as ‘shocking’ and ‘shameful’.
“The housing crisis is not caused by small landlords. The responsibility for the housing crisis lies fairly and squarely with the Government,” she stated.
“Right now there are 2,726 people – individuals and families – on a social-housing waiting list in Mayo. That doesn’t even capture the real demand, as a couple with two children have to earn less than €32,500 together to even qualify. So many other people are trapped by being unable to afford a home and ineligible for social housing.”
Mayo County Council’s Director of Services for Housing, Tom Gilligan, has also said that homelessness was likely to increase with the lifting of the eviction ban.
According to Mayo auctioneers who have spoken to The Mayo News, the eviction ban has also had another unforeseen effect that is likely to make the situation worse: landlords have decided that the pressure of the ban, together with the high taxes levied on rental income, has made it too difficult to operate. They now want to leave the rental market – an exodus that will only serve to shrink the available pool of rental properties even further.
“The small-time landlords want out, and that’s the reality of it,” said Robert McGreal of REA McGreal Burke. “They want out because the RTB [Rights and Tencancy Board] regulations and the tax payable on the rental incomes is just too much to bear. It doesn’t make a good investment anymore.”
Worse again, Mr McGreal believes, the entire strategy of an eviction ban has had no effect on reducing the number of people becoming homeless.
In January of this year, Mayo County Council saw ten homeless presentations. This is compared to eight in January of 2022, when no eviction ban was in place.
“If you look at the figures, in 2021 between January and December, homelessness increased by about 10 percent, [and] there was no eviction ban. Then in the last eviction ban between October and January, which is about four months, there was 7 percent of an increase. That’s about 2 percent a month,” McGreal told The Mayo News.
“There’s a lot of factors that come into play there, but imposing an eviction ban does not stop homelessness. Homelessness was 2 percent a month for the period just gone, in 2021 it was 1 percent a month, so homelessness is increasing as more and more landlords are leaving the market.”
Yesterday (Monday), there were 31 Mayo rental properties listed on Daft.ie. Mr McGreal described the shortage of rental properties in Mayo as ‘ridiculous’.
“It’s grand up in Dublin where you have a big company to come in and develop 300 or 400 apartments and rent them out. That ain’t going to happen in Castlebar or Westport or Belmullet,” he said.
“[In Mayo] it’s ‘mom and pop investors’ buying three-bed semis and renting them out. They do not see a future for themselves in that business. That’s a real issue.”
Axe the tax
Castlebar-based auctioneer Kevin Beirne said that landlords will continue to leave the rental market unless the tax system is amended.
Mr Beirne said that many landlords are liable for a tax rate of 55 percent under the current regime – a rate he believes is too high and must be cut.
According to reports yesterday (Monday), the Government is considering increasing the tax credit for renters and reducing capital gains tax to landlords who sell to local authorities or approved housing bodies.
“They’ve dangled a carrot in front of landlords now, saying that [after next] October’s budget if you sell the house to them you won’t have any capital gains to pay,” Mr Beirne told The Mayo News. He believes that landlords might not realise that they would have to accept whatever the Government offers them in order to avail of such a scheme. “They will tell you what price they’ll give you for the house,” he said, adding in exasperation: “And we’re supposed to be living in a republic!”
Like fellow auctioneer Robert McGreal, Mr Beirne believes the lifting of the ban will not stem the tide of landlords leaving the market. “Lifting the eviction ban is a little bit too late.” he said.
He added that there is also is a ‘big fear’ among those who own rental properties that a Sinn Féin-led government would introduce more-onerous regulations for landlords.
Under the Housing For All plan, the local authority aims to deliver 225 social housing units by the end of this year and 1,004 housing units by the end of 2026.
“We are in the midst of a housing crisis and many challenges remain,” Tom Gilligan told The Mayo News. “However, increasing the supply of housing is a key priority for the Council and every avenue is being pursued for this to happen.”
This article was amended to correct the number of people accessing emergency accommodation in Mayo from 152, as appeared in the print edition, to 162.