Since the start of the pandemic, many people have been left temporarily unemployed and relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment or the Wage Subsidy Scheme. With a decrease in their income, this has left a lot of people in a state of financial insecurity. Roise Collins discusses how this affects tenants around the country.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, membership increased significantly for CATU, a ‘Community Action Tenants Union’. The organisation was founded in October 2019, and according to their website, there are now 9 CATU local committees officially launched: six in Dublin, one each in Cork, Maynooth and Galway.
The organisation organised a Day of Action on the 17th of June. The campaign called for an extension of emergency eviction banning legislation until January 2021 and for rent arrears during lockdown to be cancelled.
The ‘Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020’ that was introduced in March banned all evictions during a six month period. These temporary measures provided protection to residential tenants in light of the pandemic, but the initial emergency period ended on the 1st of August 2020.
As the country moved to Level Five restrictions at midnight on the 21st of October for six weeks, the government has now reimplemented a temporary eviction ban.
Eoin Ó Broin, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Planning & Local Govt. said: “If there’s going to be restrictions on people’s movements then we need the reintroduction of the ban on evictions.”
“But not just the ban on evictions – notice to quit and rental increases as well.” Ó Broin added.
The City spoke with Éanna MacAodha from the Fairview/Marino/Clontarf branch of CATU about the work the organisation is doing on the ground in their local community. MacAodha described the group as “a collection of people (tenants, licensees, general members of the community) working together to make our corner of Dublin more liveable.”
He explained that “a key component of that is fighting back against the instability inherent within the private rental market – the constant threat of being evicted or simply squeezed out by rising rents.”
When asked about a permanent solution to banning evictions MacAodha said: “We would welcome legislation providing for a comprehensive and permanent ban on evictions. Though we don’t see any truly effective ban on evictions coming into play without the people getting organised to put sufficient pressure on the government.”
MacAodha explained how the group is strongly opposed to all economic evictions. This includes evictions driven by the landlord’s profit motive, such as conversion to Airbnb, redevelopment or an attempt to raise the rent on new tenants. He added, “We’re also opposed to any evictions into homelessness regardless of the cause.
“We’re working from the ground up to fight these evictions and counter landlord power through tenant organising.”
At the moment the CATU local branch is working on a campaign to identify and confront landlords and letting agents in the area complicit in illegal rent hikes. “A campaign focusing specifically on a permanent eviction ban in Dublin/Ireland is something that would have to be tackled on a national level… but for the moment we’re focusing on building the organisation and tackling more local and specific issues and resisting any attempts to evict any of our members,” added MacAodha.