ELECTED members and officials of Limerick City and County Council are to form a special committee to examine what can be done locally to tackle the housing crisis.
At a specially convened meeting of the local authority last week, Sinn Féin councillor Sharon Benson proposed that the council call on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to declare a housing emergency and use the emergency powers to put a ban on landlords evicting tenants.
This was amended during the meeting to putting a moratorium on tenant evictions, which would be reviewed.
She told the meeting: “We have an emergency that is multifaceted and affects people of every social class. Our reliance on private rentals has come back to bite us.”
“There are just 20 properties available to rent in Limerick today. There are 813 properties to let in the entire State. In Limerick there are just two, three bed properties to let, costing up to €2,000 a month. This is not affordable for young families.”
She said that stopping evictions would allow time for consolidation and construction to take place.
Seconding the motion, Green Party councillor Sean Hartigan said there are “no options for tenants who are evicted. Pausing evictions is a proven method to tackle homelessness.”
Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan said that there are currently 120 short term lets available in Limerick through Airbnb which is “pricing ordinary people out of the rental market. ”
“There must be more support for working people in the squeezed middle who feel they pay for everything and get nothing in return.”
Fine Gael councillor John Sheahan said that “supply is where the problem is” and, welcoming Cllr Benson’s motion, he said it is “mind boggling how this has mushroomed.”
But he warned there would have to be a “happy medium, in terms of banning evictions to avoid rewarding bad tenants. If that’s the case, landlords will just walk away.”
His party colleague Cllr Liam Galvin proposed, and members agreed, that a working group be set up, comprising all parties “to find out what is going wrong in our own local authority.
“The housing situation is a failure on all of us,” he added.
A number of councillors raised the issue of protection for landlords who would not be able to evict non-paying or troublesome tenants or get back control of their properties to sell them or move into.
After a recess, members agreed to amend the original motion to call for a moratorium, similar to the one employed during Covid.