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Speaking of the housing crisis March 16, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Things have reached a pretty pass when Pat Leahy of all people is arguing that lifting the ban on evictions is major political mistake for the Government (and it provides quite a contrast with the piece posted this morning). Of course he goes on to frame matters in a way more congenial to his worldview, but at least there’s some sense of the way this issue plays politically which is a world away from the evasive rhetoric of other commentators in the same paper about the same issue. And worse again, at least arguably, are the public pronouncements of the leading figures in the Coalition government. Again, the question has to be asked as it has been in comments here, what possesses them to assert that ‘the state is without question turning the corner’ in relation to building new houses and more importantly the immediate issue with regard to evictions. The gap between that rhetoric and the reality of the crisis as a whole is too wide.

Anyhow Leahy notes:

There is a strong chance that lifting the moratorium on evictions this week could turn out to be one of the most serious mistakes this Government makes.

While there is clearly a strong argument to end the ban in order to keep as many landlords as possible in the market, it is politically reckless not to have either prepared the ground beforehand, or else to announce the end of the ban in three months’ time and give that time and space to put in the place the mitigations and protections for tenants that the Government hastily announced this week.

And he continues by outlining the fact that the supposed ‘mitigations’ are nowhere to be seen. For example the right of first refusal to sitting tenants where the landlord seeks to sell the house depends on legislation that has yet to be written and will not be ready by April 1st when the ban lifts. 

And he notes the core problem for the government. There will be evictions, likely many such;

Stories of families being evicted and with – in at least some cases – no emergency accommodation available would not just be outrageous in themselves, but have the potential to destroy the Government. You may be sure that some – and possibly many – tenants will simply refuse to move; if the alternative was your car, wouldn’t you? A rental owner contacts me to point out that this could mean another two years waiting for an eviction notice. I doubt that will please the landlords. And when the forced evictions inevitably come, what are ministers going to say when people are thrown onto the streets by private security men as the gardaí look on? The message this policy sends to a generation that feels locked out of home ownership is pretty much: you’re on your own.

This is absolutely correct – if the choice is your car or the place you are in, what choice is that? That a government could stand over this. That commentators could talk about markets that have been characterised by volatility and disfunction across many decades and how short term pain will allow for long term gain. It’s risible. 

And who could disagree with this?

The Government is sometimes criticised for failing to take difficult and unpopular choices that are in the long-term interest of the country. Certainly this week it didn’t take the easy option. But just because something is the hard option, doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

That rhetoric around hard choices is such an easy line – and particularly when it issues from people who will not have to actually suffer the hard choices. But here we see what it means in the immediate. Indeed I’m trying to think of any issue where the consequences of a decision are both so immediate and so widely spread? Or perhaps it is that in other areas, health, education, support service for children, the processes are slower and the numbers arguably fewer. But this, this is time limited so that the impacts will be felt in a fortnight. 

All of that is good. That said Leahy then tilts towards the following:

I try to be appropriately sceptical rather than hopelessly cynical about the ability of government in the widest sense to deliver projects quickly. But it’s getting harder. Housing construction is too slow. The Government insists that money is not the issue in fixing the housing crisis. But if it isn’t, then what is being done to effectively accelerate delivery? Often, the Government and its many agencies seem completely unable to work the levers of power to get practical things done. It’s a complaint you hear everywhere: why can’t they just get on with it?

And he mentions the long running implementation of a local cycle lane as against the construction of a private apartment block – the latter has gone up quicker than the former which is yet to be completed  I’m not entirely certain the comparison is fair – a single building is a different project to a road project, though having to cycle down North Strand three or four times a week to get to work and considering the length of time the reconfiguration of the road there has taken it does seem to be extraordinarily lengthy. 

But there’s a deeper point. The government has not fulfilled its own targets in this area – one that is so centrally crucial that it’s inexplicable why it has not seemed to be more important to it. Yet that, as noted elsewhere in recent days, is a direct result of the lack of energy around this issue across years and decades by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Their effective indolence, their unwillingness to add heft to a private sector that was interested in the specific rather than the systemic (for which read private non-social construction) by establishing a state development company, their retreat from activists government, leaves us where we are.

Leahy concludes with the following:

The contrast strikes me as a metaphor for the Government’s inability to do important things quickly enough. If that persists, especially in housing, the Government will be judged a failure on the most important social issue it faces. The political consequences of that will be severe, and they should be.

He’s not wrong. But it at this point, given the severity of the situation it is for the state to do the heavy lifting. Only a government, whether this one or the next or the one after that, can seriously address the problem. Why this one appears so averse to facing that fact is a mystery. 


1. Gearóid Clár - March 18, 2023

In the IT podcast, Jennifer Bray called it the worst decision the government have made – both from a political and humane perspective.


This is probably the best article I’ve read on the eviction ban ending.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - March 18, 2023

It genuinely is and if Bray is saying that then perhaps it’s reaching people who otherwise might not be getting the depth of it, wouldn’t you think? Thanks re the steer on that article.


Gearóid Clár - March 18, 2023

That’s it. And, as you say, even Pat Leahy weighing in. With these and Sally Rooney’s article being a front-pager on the weekend supplement, it’s interesting how the impact is spreading.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - March 18, 2023

Government can’t be happy.


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