The eviction ban shows the mess our housing sector is in

The good news in terms of housing strategy and the ‘somewhere has to be done’ approach is that the coalition has shaken off its torpor.

The bad news is that too many of the measures now being urgently enforced are aimed not at delivering more homes, but at alleviating the hardship of not having nearly enough.

In announcing an eviction ban, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was about finding the right balance and keeping people at risk of homelessness sheltered.

If you’re speaking generically, that sounds reasonable, but of course the elephant in the room is that such a ban wouldn’t be necessary if the coalition had found “the balance” because there wasn’t a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

To be fair to Mr Martin, responsibility for the current crisis stretches back many years and with the homeless figure approaching a worrying 11,000, there is more than enough blame to go around.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael know they could and should have acted sooner when it comes to providing homes. Sinn Féin may lay claim to higher moral ground, but its title deed is also suspect. Having preferred to sit on the sidelines for so long rather than hold office, Sinn Féin avoided any influence on decision-making.

Therefore, his criticisms, while often constructive, do not have the authority they otherwise would.

The no-fault moratorium on evictions will last until the end of next March. All sides have welcomed the move as winter sets in, but the need for such intervention also speaks to the extent of the dysfunction in our real estate sector.

As Labor Party leader Ivana Bacik stressed, a longer-term plan to deal with the problems in the housing market must be drawn up. Even Tánaiste Leo Varadkar expressed some reservations about the initiative.

However, Mr Varadkar accepted Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien’s argument that “the number of people needing emergency shelter is increasing” so action was needed.

Our housing crisis is not being addressed through a left or right political prism. There needs to be a more practical assessment of whether we are doing it right or wrong.

For more than a decade, governments have obviously been wrong. Defaults created shortages that turned houses into commodities to speculate on.

Global property corporations stepped in and made a killing.

The wider the gap between supply and demand, the more profitable it became – and the more the dream of owning a home receded into the background for far too many.

George Bernard Shaw wrote: “No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.”

Obvious or not, more houses is the only answer: the conundrum is that it could have been ignored for so long. The eviction ban shows the mess our housing sector is in

Fry Electronics Team

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