Dáil hears 70 households at Cork apartment block facing "mass eviction"

Cork TD Mick Barry says residents are facing the real threat of homelessness

Dáil hears 70 households at Cork apartment block facing "mass eviction"

The Leeside Apartment Block in Cork City. Image: Google

The Dáil has heard that 70 households have been told to quit an apartment block in Cork City.

Cork North Central TD Mick Barry told the house that the owners of the Leeside Apartments on Bachelors Quay are claiming they want to carry out refurbishments on the block.

It comes after the housing charity Threshold warned that up to 12% of tenancies are ended by landlords misusing a loophole in the Government’s Rent Pressure Zone legislation that allows rent increases following “substantial renovations” at a property.

Yesterday the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy confirmed plans to introduce a legal definition for what constitutes a “substantial renovation.”

Deputy Barry was one of several TDs calling for an end to the loophole this evening.

Threat of homelessness

He said many of the families living at the apartment block are now facing the real threat of homelessness:

“We have young families; they have kids, they have kids who go to school in the vicinity of the apartment block,” he said.

“One family I spoke to pays €700 per month rent and has gone out and started to look for alternative accommodation.

“The prices being asked: €1000, €1100, €1200, €1300.”

He said there are “queues going out the door” at each of those properties.

The Leeside Apartment block is made up of 78 apartments, with space for 175 beds, and a private car park.

The property was sold earlier this year - with the selling agents telling the property section of The Irish Independent that rental income could be increased to over €970,000 through a full refurbishment programme.

Substantial refurbishment

Deputy Barry said residents living under the threat of “mass eviction” should now be included in the State homeless figures.

“The number one reason for homelessness is when someone or a family receives a notice to quit from a private landlord,” he said.

“The number one excuse being given these days is ‘substantial refurbishment.’

“If a landlord wants to raise the rent, get people out, get new people in and charge them more, ‘substantial refurbishment’ is the way to go. This is particularly the case with mass evictions, since the Tyrrelstown amendment came in.

“The Minister must close this loophole.” 

Normalising homelessness

He also lashed out at the government over recent comments from the Taoiseach and the junior housing minister on the homeless crisis.

Speaking at the Fine Gael national conference over the weekend, Leo Varadkar claimed that Ireland’s homeless figures are not high by international standards.

Yesterday, Damien English, minister of state at the Department of Housing, accused the media of exaggerating the scale of the crisis.

Separately, the head of the Housing Agency claimed that homelessness is not a crisis, but a normal factor of life.

Homeless charities meanwhile have called on the head of the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive to resign after she questioned the value of “ad hoc” volunteer groups who hand out comforts like soup and sleeping bags - and suggested long-term homelessness was the result of years of “bad behaviour.”

“There is an attempt to normalise and minimise the homelessness crisis,” said Deputy Barry. “It is cold, calculating and co-ordinated.”

“The Fine Gael Ministers involved should be ashamed of themselves. However, I do not believe they will fool the people on this issue.”

Housing Bill

Deputy Barry’s comments came as the House was debating the Labour Party’s Housing Bill 2017 – which would compel the authorities to recognise the needs of children and families who become homeless.

The Housing Minister has said the bill is “well intentioned” - adding that the Government would support it.

Labour Party housing spokesperson Jan O'Sullivan has said she hopes the bill can prevent children being sent to garda stations or having to sleep on the street.