2 November 2000 Edition
Landlord doubles rents overnight
`A window on the housing crisis'
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
The rents of 29 families living in Dublin inner city's Enaville Avenue and St Patrick's Street have been doubled, following a protest they mounted to save their homes.
The residents demonstrated last Wednesday, 25 October, outside an auction that was convened to sell their homes. The landlord could not guarantee them that their tenure in the houses, or their rent levels, would be secure following the sale. The protest caused the postponement of the auction, but residents are furious following their subsequent 100 per cent rent hike.
Local Sinn Féin councillors Nicky Kehoe and Christy Burke say that the residents are extremely frustrated. ``They have been faced with the prospect of eviction before Christmas in the last few weeks, then given a two-day reprieve following the protest and then told that their rents are to be increased by 100 per cent. What we have here is a tragic example of how vulnerable people living in rented accommodation in Dublin really are,'' Councillor Kehoe said.
The tenants, who mostly consist of one-parent families dependent on social welfare, were given the statutory four weeks notice to quit over one month ago. The landlord then said that the new owner might insist that they leave their homes. When residents appealed to Dublin Corporation to intervene, they were told that the local authority could not buy the houses and, beyond that, there was little else they could do.
Christy Burke said that the plight of the people living on the two roads was a `window on the housing crisis'.
``The neglect these people have suffered from the various statutory agencies and the Taoiseach, who is one of their local representatives, is absolutely incomprehensible,'' he said. ``A situation where mothers and children are being evicted from their homes, as Christmas time approaches, reminds me of something out of a Charles Dickens novel,'' he said.
``Housing and health have been shown consistently in polls to be the two issues that the public are most worried about, but the government parties just aren't listening.''
In Dublin City alone, the Housing Waiting List has 7,000 families awaiting homes, while the figure throughout the 26 Counties has reached 50,000. According to Councillor Burke, up to £50 per night is being spent on B&B accommodation for many people on the list, while housing applicants can wait six or seven years to be housed.
``Corporation housing officials are doing a good job, in disastrous circumstances,'' said Burke. ``The whole system is completely inefficient. Why, for instance, is so much money being spent on B&B accommodation, when it would be cheaper in the long run for the government to build houses? Why, you might ask, is the government not challenging the speculators, who are making millions off the backs of ordinary people who can barely afford to keep a roof over their heads?
``What we need, and what Sinn Féin is calling for, is a state housing company that is democratically accountable to the Irish people.''
A state housing company would be able to undercut developers by placing compulsory purchase orders on land around Dublin, which, he says, would otherwise go to waste. This would also provide jobs and sustain, rather than detract from the housing market.