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Varadkar: Yeah, screw it, we’ll ban evictions

The official word is, of course, that it’s not an eviction ban. Just a “moratorium on notices to terminate”. In practice, as many on the left noted with satisfaction yesterday, it’s the same thing. Rejoice, everyone: The housing crisis is now officially solved.

This is the fellow, remember, who was supposed to be the most right-wing leader Ireland has ever had. And one supposes that might be true, in the same way that it’s true to say that Kerensky was the most right-wing member of the post-revolutionary Soviet Government.

Here’s the thing about Varadkar that baffles this writer, who knew him reasonably well at one point: He knows this is a bad idea. There was a time when he’d have denounced it for the economic illiteracy that it is: When you clamp down on a market and stop it functioning as it should, the whole market will eventually stop working. Evictions are an unpleasant business, but they happen for a good reason – first, to incentivise tenants to be good tenants, and second to give landlords basic protection from people who do not pay their rent, or who cause damage to a property. When you freeze the market in place, you are not only locking landlords in with bad tenants – you are also denying opportunities to people who would be good tenants. How do we think housing comes on the market, exactly, without new vacancies?

The obvious and inevitable result of a policy decision like this is that there will be fewer homes on the market, this winter, for those looking to rent. And there will be fewer people incentivized to provide housing to renters, because what little protection those people have from bad tenants has just been stripped away.

As I say: Leo Varadkar knows all this. And yet, he’s out here advocating for a policy he knows for a fact to be a bad one.

So why doesn’t he just come out and call himself a socialist, and have done with it? That’s a serious question. He’s in the odd position where he gets all the relentless opprobrium for being a “right wing Thatcherite blueshirt”, or whatever, while, at the same time, enacting the kind of left wingery on housing that somebody like Dick Spring or Ruairi Quinn – proud socialists both – never considered, even once, because it is so obviously extreme.

Here’s Paul Murphy, celebrating, as well he might.

My job here is to give my opinions on why things happen. So, in that spirit, here it is:

The Government, I think, has given up entirely on any idea of winning the next election, and, because of that, it has given up on any real idea that it might solve the housing crisis. Everything that’s being done, now, is being done in political mitigation. Leo Varadkar knows full well that an eviction ban won’t fix the crisis, and will make it worse. But he also knows that at the next election, he will be savaged from the left for not trying an eviction ban. He’s given up, so on trying to win the argument, and is now just trying to avoid a beating at all costs.

This is – and I do not wish to overstate things – a catastrophe for democracy. Because outside of a few of us with no influence, there is basically nobody now in Ireland making any argument on housing other than the far left. The march is relentless: It began with rent controls. Then rent pressure zones. Then a covid eviction moratorium. Now this. None of those things have worked, so, each in their turn has been succeeded by something more left wing. We now have the fundamentally crazy idea of inserting a “right to housing” into the constitution.

Is it so hard to imagine, in short order, a Government using that, because nothing else has worked, to actually seize properties from the “wealthy” in order to provide “social housing”? I think, fundamentally, that’s where we’re headed.

People like Paul Murphy make no bones, by the way, about their ultimate goal being the seizure of most private property for the common good. With nobody in politics to oppose them intellectually, we’re on that trajectory. Fine Gael, meanwhile, will be content to simply watch on from the opposition benches, so long as they’ve not been entirely wiped out.

I wonder, I really do, about all those middle class “centrist dad” Fine Gaelers who know, in their hearts, what a terrible idea stuff like this is. Why are they not fighting it?

I’m not sure their party has ever had a worse leader. And I think they know that too, in their hearts.

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