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Tinkering December 20, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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Watching the growing crisis over homelessness and related issues such as rising rents and the cost of housing ……..you can be like the Government and do little or nothing but pitter patter around the edge of the problem. Yes put a moratorium on rent increases, allow a 4% rise , allow NAMA do what it likes …. Yet it doesn’t seem to occur to them to have a massive public building programme, introduce a vacant site levy, ask NAMA for properties, land that would be suitable and so on and so on. Solutions that any child could give them,, solutions that alas are against the dogma of our two major parties. “The Market …The Market… The Market”
I was discussing Apollo House today and the lack of Government reaction to the housing/homelessness crisis, to some it was celebs acting irresponsibly , “would they take them into their own mansions?”, “wait til Bono jumps on the bandwagon!” and so on. Yet it has taken “Celebrities” and activists (some are both) to get some people talking about homelessness. To show that our Capital (and I’m sure other places) have many empty buildings that could be used to house people.
I’ve touched on it here before of how there is a class in society that has never had long periods unemployed, periods living hand to mouth, have had to move their families back in with their parents, that knows nobody living in a hotel and because all of this doesn’t really appreciate the crisis we are in. Doesn’t realise the damage Austerity has done to communities across the Country.
For a party so full of it’s own History and Heritage, Fianna Fail, who gave us massive public housing schemes in the 30’s and 40’s appear to have turned their back on public housing and continue to prop up the Government.
My wife was correcting 5th year exam papers this evening, as she marked she told me “this girl lives in a hotel” , minutes later “this boy lives in a hotel”…… I wondered how the fuck anyone could study for their leaving cert as part of a family living in a fucking hotel room. What chance do those pupils have compared to those that live in a house. That have a room to study in, a kitchen table to do homework on. It really is a disgrace.

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1. Paddy Healy - December 20, 2016

Minister Coveney has made clear that his approach is governed not only by reliance on the market to provide housing, but also that he is constrained by the protection of the right to private property in the constitution. Yet he has refused to formally declare a housing emergency by voting down amendments to the two recent housing Bills proposed by Seamus Healy and supported by 37 deputies. But he and FG supported the declaration of a financial emergency by Brendan Howlin to enable the confiscation of private property in pensions under FEMPI. The continuation of the financial emergency was recertified in the Dail on June 30, this year!
VOTING ON FOCUS IRELAND AMENDMENT To Planning Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill PROPOSED BY SEAMUS HEALY TD TO HALT EVICTIONS FROM HOUSES BOUGHT BY LANDLORDS AS BUY-TO-LETS
Full Details of relevant Dáil proceedings: http://wp.me/pKzXa-wc
The Dáil divided: Tá, 43; Staon(Formal abstention) FF, 25; Níl, 52.
Against: Government (FG, Independent Alliance); MichaelLowry, Michael Fitzmaurice, Noel Grealish
Missing for Vote :Mattie McGrath, D Healy Rae, M Healy Rae, Dr Harty, some FG Deputies, Some FF Deputies, John Halligan (Independent Alliance)

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GW - December 20, 2016

Exactly the relevant points Paddy.

Private property is sacred when it belongs to landlords, but not when it belongs to workers who have paid into pension funds.

And well done Seamus for putting the alternatives.

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dublinstreams - December 20, 2016

did they put the restriction at 10 houses being sold, the press releases about the focus Ireland amendment left out the details

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Paddy Healy - December 22, 2016

No Major Media outlet bothered to explain Thefocus Ireland anendment

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dublinstreams - December 24, 2016

seems like we won’t get full explaination from you either, just SHOUTY outrage

part from the 10 house threshold is this the gov reaction to it https://www.kildarestreet.com/debates/?id=2016-12-16a.852#g865
“(b) where section 35A(3)(a) applies, a declaration that section 35A(2) does not apply to the said notice of termination as the price to be obtained by selling at market value the dwelling that is the subject of an existing tenancy to which Part 4 applies is more than 20 per cent below the market value that could be obtained for the dwelling with vacant possession, and that the application of that subsection would, having regard to all the circumstances of that case be unduly onerous on, or would cause undue hardship on, that landlord.”.”.

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Paddy Healy - December 24, 2016

You are correct. This is the most outrageous clause in the bill in that it clearly puts greed and the right to private property above human welfare
Full Details of relevant Dáil proceedings: http://wp.me/pKzXa-wc
Seamus Healy Put Down an amendment to delete this (20%) clause. Coveney explained that the 20% extra sale price for vacant possession was necessary so that the interference with private property would “be reasonable and proportionate” Otherwise, he said, the bill would fall foul of article 43 of the constitution which protects private property “subject to the exigencies of the common good”

Seamus also put down an amendment which would overcome article 43–i. e. the formal eclaration of a housing emergency. But FF, FG, Labour, Greens voted against it.
Only Catherine Connolly Independent and barrister, Tommy Broughan and Roisin Shortall spoke specifically in favour of the declaration of a housing emergency. If the amendment had been carried “the exigencies of the common good ” would have prevailed over the right to private property and the 20% clause and the 10 properties clause would have fallen.
FF, FG, Labour recertified the formal existence of a legal financial emergency on June 30 last inorder to enable the continued confiscation of private property in public service pensions. But when the private property of their friends,-NAMA, Vultures, Landords , Banks, etc was at stake they rejected the formal legal declaration of a housing emergency despite the fact that Minister Coveney has said publicly that such an emergency exists!

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dublinstreams - December 24, 2016

couldn’t find Coveney’s response in your blog post, hard to follow debate when you don’t see both sides

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Paddy Healy - December 24, 2016

It is even more complicated than that. Coveneys more detailed explanations were given at Committee Stage in Dáil. Though this was live on Oireachtas TV, the text has not yet been put up on the Oireachtas website.
When this happens, I will prepare a detailed document with copious quotations from Coveney and relying on legal advice I have got informally in relation to FEMPI and private property in pensions. I will also quote replies of Howlin to Seamus in relation to pensions. THIS IS THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE IN RELATION TO HOUSING an private property generally. The Democratic Programme of First Dail is far superior to Bunreacht na hEireann in puuting the right to human welfare above private property

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2. sonofstan - December 20, 2016

i remain struck by Coveney’s view that rent control is ‘counter-intuitive’. Because all one’s intuitions would, of course, support an unfettered market and hang the human cost.

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6to5against - December 20, 2016

I was struck by that too. The idea that capping rent rises when rents are rising too far too fast is surely the most obvious, intuitive olution. To everybody, regardless of politics. Only those deeply enmeshed in ideology could see it as counter intuitive.

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CMK - December 20, 2016

If you take the rule of thumb that people should spend 1/3 of their earnings on accommodation then a 4% annual increase each year for the next couple of years equates to a roughly 1.5% pay increase claim. Now, if the unions here weren’t led by utterly cynical and comfortable establishment toadies, they would be intervening in the debate to make clear that they would be seeking annual wage increases to meet the cost of rent rises, particularly given that over a third of people are now renting. Yet again, the union movement here, when faced with a real-life pressing political-economy issue weighing heavily on ordinary workers, go to ground and keep schtum.

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RosencrantzisDead - December 20, 2016

Is this (pressure zones; 4% increase) supposed to comprise the ‘affordable rents’ pillar of his Housing Plan?

To make it worse, the 4% increase cap is temporary, and it is envisaged by Coveney that when the ‘pressure zone’ designation is lifted the rents will see a significant jump. His justification for keeping the increases at 4% is because it might make the sharp rise at the end seem less severe.

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CMK - December 20, 2016

Yep, the ‘4%’ cap is a three-card-trick to get Coveney and the government out of their current predicament. They clearly have zero problem with unchecked rent increases for as long as it takes until ‘THE MARKET’ reaches equilibrium, regardless of the human costs of same.

Which is all the more reason why we need the trade unions to start kicking up about this. Link rent increases with wage rises – if rents go up then wages will have to go up to match them – even from a propaganda point of view this should be bread and butter for a thinking trade unionist.

Instead, there seems to be a tactic of getting behind housing campaigns and being seen to tick that box as a way of avoiding an industrial confrontation over what is perhaps the pressing issue for hundreds of thousands of workers: radically unsustainable rental prices.

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3. dublinstreams - December 20, 2016

“Yet it has taken “Celebrities” and activists (some are both) to get some people talking about homelessness. To show that our Capital (and I’m sure other places) have many empty buildings that could be used to house people.”

because people weren’t talking about this before? for the last few years in particular? wtf?

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4. Paddy Healy - December 22, 2016

Seamus Healy’s Amendment To Formally Declare a HOUSING EMERGENCY lost.
Labour Vote Against But Fianna Fáil ABSTAIN!
Full Details of relevant Dáil proceedings: http://wp.me/pKzXa-wc
The Dáil divided: Tá, 34; Staon(Formal Abstention), 24; Níl, 59.

(Nil) Against : LABOUR PARTY, INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE (Including Finian McGrath), Rural Independent Michael Fitmaurice, Indepenent Michael Lowry, Fine Gael Party
Tá(For) : Independent Seamus Healy,Rural Independent Michael Collins, Sinn Féin,AAA, PBP,Independents 4 Change

Formal Abstention, Fianna Fail Party

Missing : Rural Independent Mattie McGrath,Independent Dr Harty, D Healy Rae, M Healy Rae, John Halligan (Independent alliance),Some FF and FG Deputies also missing

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5. Paddy Healy - December 22, 2016

small omissions in earlier post
Seamus Healy’s Amendment To Formally Declare a HOUSING EMERGENCY DeFeated in Dáil.
Labour Vote Against But Fianna Fáil ABSTAIN!
Full Details of relevant Dáil proceedings: http://wp.me/pKzXa-wc
The Dáil divided: Tá, 34; Staon(Formal Abstention), 24; Níl, 59.
(Nil) Against : LABOUR PARTY, INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE (Including Finian McGrath), Green Party, Rural Independent Michael Fitmaurice, Indepenent Michael Lowry, Fine Gael Party
Tá(For) : Independent Seamus Healy,Rural Independent Michael Collins, Sinn Féin,AAA, PBP,Independents 4 Change, Social Democrats,
Formal Abstention, Fianna Fail Party
Missing : Rural Independent Mattie McGrath,Independent Dr Harty, D Healy Rae, M Healy Rae, John Halligan (Independent alliance),Some FF and FG Deputies also missing

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6. Paddy Healy - January 2, 2017

“Government Allowing Courts To Pump People into Homelessness”-
Master of the High Court condemns house repossessions
Full Article http://wp.me/pKzXa-wc
Edmund Honohan criticised the Government for failing to properly protect people facing repossession and said it was instead allowing the courts to “pump people into homelessness”
Kitty Holland, Irish Times Monday, January 2, 2017, 01:00

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CL - January 2, 2017

‘The Master of the High Court has queried whether AIB’s largest shareholder – the Minister for Finance – is aware of the extent of its litigation in repossession and debt cases….
Master Edmund Honohan, … noted that about half of the 98 cases before him on Tuesday were taken by AIB and asked aloud whether the bank’s “largest shareholder” was aware of this…
The State owns 99.9 per cent of AIB, with the shares vested with the minister, Michael Noonan…
Both AIB and the Department of Finance declined to comment on Mr Honohan’s remarks.’
http://www.irishtimes.com/business/financial-services/honohan-asks-if-noonan-knows-of-aib-debt-and-repossession-cases-1.2906592

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Paddy Healy - January 2, 2017

Seamus has raised the fact that government through the banks it owns-AIB, PTSB and EBS are evicting people on a regular basis. During the FG-Lab government he questioned Noonan on the issue orally in the Dáil. Noonan replied that there was a “relationship framework agreement” put in place by FF-Green government under which the state did not interere in the”day to day business” of the banks and in any event repossessions were at a reasonable level. When asked to call an EGM of the banks of which the state are in majority ownership and to instruct the management to halt evictions, he made clear that he would continue to abide by the FG-Green protocol. The “relationship framework agreement” does not have the force of law and the minister can withdraw from it at any time
We also submitted this issue to all members of the Oireachtas Commission on Housing and Homelessness but we cannot find any evidence of the matter being discussed nor is it mentioned in the Report. As the state owns these banks the protection of private property in the constitution is not an obstacle to the government halting evictions by them.
In justification of his position, Mr Noonan remarked:”It would be a very sad day for the country if the first port of call for a person seeking a loan had to be the local Deputy rather than a bank manager.”
Deputy Seamus Healy: “We are not asking anybody to do that at all.”

Despite its length, I think it is worth pasting in the Dáil record here because of the importance of the issue for human well-being
Dail Record Jan 14/2016 Home Repossession
Parliamentary Question from Seamus Healy TD to Minister for Finance Ml. Noonan
3. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Finance if he will insist that Allied Irish Bank and its subsidiary the Educational Building Society and Permanent TSB, which are in majority State ownership, desist from seeking repossession of family homes through the Courts and withdraw all such existing applications before the Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1426/16]
Deputy Seamus Healy: Allied Irish Banks, the Educational Building Society and Permanent TSB are in majority State ownership. They are adding to homelessness and the housing crisis by repossessing family homes. I am asking the Minister, as the majority shareholder, to instruct the banks to desist from this practice.
Deputy Michael Noonan: I would like to thank Deputy Healy for raising this question. As he is aware, I have no direct function in the relationship between the customer and PTSB, or AIB and its subsidiary EBS. Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a shareholder in these institutions, I must ensure that these banks are run on a commercial and independent basis to ensure the value of the banks as an asset to the State.
Decisions taken by the banks are a matter for the board and management of the relevant institution. The relationship framework agreements define the arm’s-length nature of the relationship between the State and the banks in which the State has an investment. The banks are therefore entitled to pursue all options open to them in order to realise the value of their impaired assets, within the significant constraints imposed by their regulator, the Central Bank and the law as it applies.
The Government has put in place a broad strategy to address the problem of mortgage arrears and family home repossessions. The primary focus of this strategy is to support those home owners in difficulty with their mortgage repayments and, in so far as possible, to avoid repossession of family homes. In recent months, the Government agreed measures to enhance awareness of and access to the insolvency framework. We expanded the mortgage-to-rent scheme, making it more accessible. In addition, my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, also introduced the Bankruptcy (Amendment) Bill 2015, which will, among other things, reduce the normal duration of bankruptcy from three years to one year.
The Central Bank of Ireland’s code of conduct on mortgage arrears also provides protection as it sets out requirements for lenders dealing with borrowers who are facing, or in, mortgage arrears on their primary residence. It ensures that borrowers struggling to keep up mortgage repayments are treated in a fair and transparent manner by their lenders and that long-term resolution is sought by lenders with each of their borrowers.
The number of mortgages in arrears continues to fall. There are almost 121,000 restructuring arrangements in place and the vast majority of these are working. The figures demonstrate that most families can, working with their financial institutions, find an arrangement to make their mortgage commitments affordable. Active engagement by indebted borrowers with their lenders is key to achieving sustainable resolutions. I would urge borrowers in arrears who have not already done so to take that step by contacting their lender directly, or MABS, for an independent assessment of their situation and advice on available resolution options.
Deputy Seamus Healy: There is a tsunami of homelessness in this country. Last November, the Dublin Homeless Executive provided figures according to which some 1,425 children in 677 families were in emergency accommodation. The Dublin Simon Community said that was unacceptable and shameful. Focus Ireland said that the Government had failed these families. The Master of the High Court, Mr. Edmund Honohan, criticised the banks and accused them of hounding home owners to suicide.
[Deputy Seamus Healy: ] He criticised the fast-tracked repossession regime that the Government has allowed to be introduced in the courts. These banks are majority owned by the State and it is open to the Minister to instruct these banks to desist from repossessing family homes. In Tipperary alone, 100 families are facing repossession. The Minister should insist that this stop.
Deputy Michael Noonan: Deputy Healy raised the very important issue of homelessness and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, brought forward proposals last year that have blunted the edge of this particular social crisis. Certainly, over the Christmas period there was less sense of a crisis with homelessness than there had been earlier in the year. The measures introduced by the Minister, Deputy Kelly, have been working and, please God, they will continue to work.
On the wider issue of repossession, which was the topic of the Deputy’s notified question, there is some interesting data published by the Central Bank. During the third quarter of 2015, legal proceedings were issued to enforce the debt security on private dwelling house mortgages in 1,687 cases. During quarter three, there were 798 cases where court proceedings concluded but arrears remained outstanding. In 329 cases, the court granted an order for repossession or the sale of the property. A total of 422 properties were taken into possession by lenders in the quarter, of which 207 were repossessed on foot of a court order. The remaining 215 were voluntarily surrendered or abandoned. The idea that tens of thousands of houses are being repossessed is just not correct. A small amount goes through the system. With the changes made by the Minister for Justice and Equality and with the Money Advice & Budgeting Service assisting directly people before the courts, I hope the number will diminish even further. It is the policy of the Government to put arrangements in place so that people can live in the family home.
Deputy Seamus Healy: The Minister is the majority shareholder in these banks and he has obviously given permission to the banks to repossess family homes. He could equally instruct these banks not to go down this road and repossess family homes. He could call an emergency meeting of these bank boards and instruct them not to repossess family homes. I ask him to do so immediately and if bank directors do not agree, they should be sacked, as the Minister has the power to do so as a majority shareholder. This is urgent and, irrespective of the Minister’s comments, thousands of families in the country are facing homelessness because of banks in which the State has a majority shareholding. The Minister could give instructions to stop these repossessions and I ask him to do so immediately.
Deputy Michael Noonan: There is a relationship framework, signed by my predecessors in office, with the banks and the essential component is that the political side will not interfere in commercial decisions. That is for a very good reason as we do not want to politicise the banks. It would be a very sad day for the country if the first port of call for a person seeking a loan had to be the local Deputy rather than a bank manager.
Deputy Seamus Healy: We are not asking anybody to do that at all.
Deputy Michael Noonan: There will be no political interference with the banks. On the question of repossessions, 207 houses were repossessed on foot of a court order, which does not equate to the tens of thousands of houses sometimes mentioned in commentary. There are 121,000 restructured mortgages on private dwellings, with a success rate of 86.6%. That means the arrangements stick in just under 87% of cases. The problem is being solved progressively. I appreciate it is very hard on people and I can appreciate that people who lost their jobs do not have money. I also appreciate the concerns and how upset people are. In a very extreme situation, the issue is being handled reasonably well by the banks
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