It’s gotten to the stage when people in this country are afraid to express opinions.
Whether it’s about race or sex, nationality or faith, expressing your opinion could land you in hot water. We all have a lot to say, but finding ways to say it has never been more difficult.
Of course, our politicians – and politicians everywhere, to be fair – are rarely slow in expressing their opinions. But for, say, businesses, large and small, expressing an opinion is a risk and many of them – certainly the larger ones – hire public relations (PR) companies to deal with what they want to say and how to say it.
It’s as if the PR companies are a filter, through which honest and direct opinion is cleansed, to produce something that is, at least, politically correct.
We were thinking this last week when the Government won its battle in the Dáil to end the ban on evictions from rental properties; this was just days before the first of the group of male asylum seekers arrived to live, for the time being, in tents at Columb Barracks in Mullingar.
There was uproar about the ending of the eviction ban with many TDs bitterly opposed to it. The result, they argued, will be thousands of people evicted, with nowhere to go. It will create huge problems for housing agencies, charities and local authorities across the country.
One group which had a different point of view was the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV). It went against the stream of criticism and, instead, “welcomed the Government’s counter-motion on the eviction ban…it displays more concrete understanding for the first time of market realities and the measures, once implemented, would aid both tenants and private landlords”. A fair retort may be ‘well, the IPAV would say that, wouldn’t they?’.
‘Why would the Government decide to end the ban on evictions when it knows full well the accommodation crisis that it and its agencies are currently dealing with?’
We all feel that homelessness is a dreadful thing, and it’s something we would not wish on anyone, but what if the IPAV had a point? And, come to think of it, why would the Government decide to end the ban on evictions when it knows full well the accommodation crisis that it and its agencies are currently struggling with? Why would any government do such an unpopular thing? Could it be that the Government knows or believes that pain now can mean better times for renters and landlords further down the road?
Many renters rely on HAP (Housing Assistance Payment scheme) payments, which means their local authority contributes towards their rent, but some renters did not pass this on to the landlords or held back some of their own liability. According to the IPAV, part of the unpopular legislation passed in the Dáil last week will see landlords guaranteed any shortfall in HAP payments.
“When this measure [HAP] was introduced in recent years it marked the outsourcing of all state social responsibility in this area to private landlords with huge losses of rental income being incurred by them until such time as they could recover their properties by going through a process that was then also elongated by new government regulation,” the IPAV said. And, with the eviction ban in place, landlords could do nothing about the situation. Now, they can.
We are not arguing suggesting that the Government’s decision to end the ban on evictions was a good thing; rather, we believe it’s just worth asking if it’s something that needed to be done, unpopular as it was, to try to get some fairness back into the rental property market in the long term?
Perhaps it will encourage more landlords to stay in the business rather than selling up and exiting the market? Could it eventually encourage additional accommodation to come onto the market? But then, can the Government stands up its position on evictions when it’s also bussing asylum seekers into accommodation (like Columb Barracks) and housing tens of thousands of refugees?
The logic of it all is not easy to see.