Buy to Let

‘An entire Croke Park of people could end up homeless’

A home repossession “guillotine is on the way down”, dwarfing the current homeless crisis and creating a huge catastrophe.

That is according to the CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation (IMHO), David Hall, based on a recent discussion he had with a major bank.

“We think we have a problem at the moment, for those of us dealing with people who are in mortgage arrears, there are 33,000 families in arrears of more than two years,” said Mr Hall.

“There are 15,000 people in long-term arrears in buy-to-let properties. Each of those represents, depending whatever statistical analysis you want to do, three-and-a-half bodies.

“That’s an entire Croke Park of people that will dwarf this housing crisis and turn it into a complete catastrophe.”

David Hall of the Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation says there are 33,000 families in arrears of more than two years. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

He was speaking at the launch of #MyNameis yesterday, a campaign by Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) to highlight the 2,895 children who are without a home in Ireland today.

“The problem now is the ECB [European Central Bank] is saying: ‘Eighteen months, lads [to clear loan books].’

“I met one of the major banks two weeks ago and I said to him: ‘I’m aware the guillotine is going to drop in 18 months,’ and he interrupted me and said: ‘Forget about 18 months’ time, David. The guillotine is on the way down.’

“And that will mean fast and furious loan sales of family homes to protect the balance sheet of their portfolios and there is a small, tiny window of maybe 12 months [to address this].”

Also speaking yesterday was economist Rory Hearne, who recently co-authored Investing in the Right to a Home: Housing, HAPs [housing assistant payments] and Hubs. He said 3,000 housing units could be built within 12 months.

Rory Hearne: 3,000 homes could be built on State-owned land in 12 months ‘if the will was there and the capital funding was allocated’. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

“The most recent study that was done by the Government’s housing management group found that there were 730 hectares of State-owned land ready for building to launch a programme of construction,” said Mr Hearne.

“That includes a significant amount of land in Dublin’s inner city. The public land is sitting there.

“They could build two to 3,000 housing units within 12 months if the will was there and the capital funding was allocated to it. That is the solution that is there otherwise we are facing into this crisis that’s escalating, the potential scenario of up to 6,000 children being homeless in Dublin by 2020.”

During the research for his paper on housing, Mr Hearne spoke to a number of families already living in emergency accommodation and detailed the impact it has on children and parents.

“We saw directly the impact on children of being homeless and you can see, over time, the deterioration,” said Mr Hearne. “It’s basic things. It’s going to school in the morning knowing they don’t have a home to go back to. It’s basic things like watching the worry and stress in their parents not being able to
access a home.

“Different parents told us that their child was asking: ‘When are we going to go home?’ And the parents having to say: ‘Well this is our home for the moment.’ ”

Anthony Flynn, CEO of ICHH, said he has visited the hubs that homeless families are now being placed in as an emergency accommodation measure instead of hotels and B&Bs, and said they are run like direct provision centres.

Anthony Flynn, left, and Michael Caul at the launch of #MyNameIs, a social media campaign to highlight homelessness. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

“The hubs are being portrayed as the answer to the housing crisis and they’re not,” said Mr Flynn.

“It’s basically direct provision. You eat at this time, you drink at that time, and you go to bed at that time.

“Let’s inspect the units that they’re not showing us that we have families in. They’re unacceptable. You’ve urine-soaked mattresses, blood-stained mattresses. You’ve shower units that have sewage coming back up into the basins. We’ve got photographs.”

The #MyNameis campaign got underway yesterday with posters of homeless children’s faces going up right around the country.

The campaign was initiated after reports emerged of three children, aged six, nine, and 11, being given sleeping bags in the capital this summer when no emergency accommodation was available.

The organisers are asking people to use the hashtag #MyNameis on social media to start conversations about homelessness, to lobby councillors, TDs or prospective political candidates on the issue, and to get people to reflect on their skill or trade to see if they can volunteer an hour of their time to help an organisation in their area.

In 2013, mother of two Carly Bailey’s family home was sold to a vulture fund. She found out by post.

Now, four years later, she is a third-year law and political science student at Trinity College and lives with her husband and children in rented accommodation in Dublin.

The couple had previously lived in Dublin but left for a more affordable life and built a house in Cavan in 2007, with a mortgage of around €200,000. However, in 2010, as their first child arrived, trouble struck.

“In 2010, my husband was made redundant,” she said.

“Ironically, we had bought a house in Dublin and lived there for two years but we were struggling and we thought: ‘Right, let’s cut our losses, let’s sell up, and build a house, much smaller mortgage, and all the rest.’

“We were trying to be clever enough. We built in Cavan then, in 2007.

“So 2010 came and he [her husband] was made redundant and we were struggling a wee bit so we had gone to the bank at that point looking for a bit of help. He’d get a bit of work and lose it again and we were constantly back and forth to the bank.”

At this time, Carly was also between maternity leaves and the couple’s second child arrived in 2011.

“We just kept thinking: ‘He’ll get something, it’ll turn around, it’s not going to happen to us.’ But it just didn’t and eventually, the bank told us they weren’t giving us any options. They never gave us a long-term option, ever.

“We said: ‘Right OK, we’ll sell the house.’ We tried to sell the house and then there were difficulties with that because they wouldn’t accept the offers that were coming in. So eventually they just sold the loan to a vulture fund without telling us. We found out by letter.”

With two children to rear and very few opportunities in Cavan, the couple decided to return to Dublin and education.

“I knew if we didn’t get some form of education we would never get out of this situation,” said Carly. “For both of us, we just truly believed that the people who were so vulnerable were those that didn’t have a degree.

“So I did a year in Liberties College and then I got into the Trinity Access Programme and that pretty much catapulted me. My whole life turned around as a result of that.

“So I’m now a local area representative for the Social Democrats and housing
and education, they’re my big passions. I guess because I can see they’re transformational, you know? If you’ve got somewhere stable to call your home and you’ve got an education behind you, then you stand every chance of having a successful life.”

Carly credits her “good” landlord for being flexible with the family and their finances over the last four years and hopes other landlords can be as fair.

“Landlords need to accept that social welfare recipients vary,” she said. “They can be pensioners. They can be carers. They can be people who are looking for work. There’s a whole myriad, but there is definitely a stigma that is attached to social welfare recipients and that is a huge problem.”

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