A senior courts official has called for a “big bang” solution to tackle the housing crisis.
Edmund Honohan, the government-appointed Master of the High Court who last year said repossessed homes should be nationalised, branded modular houses at 243,000 euro a unit as a joke.
“We need a big bang in relation to finding property for the public housing sector,” he said.
Mr Honohan told the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness there is no law to stop compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for repossessed or vacant houses or properties where an owner is threatened with repossession.
“We need to assert the right of the Irish government to attend to a national crisis in as economic and efficient a way as possible, and this certainly is as economic and efficient a way, the immediate seizure of vacant properties,” he said.
Mr Honohan said the initiative would freeze evictions and repossessions and give room for a mortgage to rent scheme to allow people to live in the homes and lease them from the state.
The barrister – appointed by the Government to deal with preliminary issues in High Court cases – hit out at the current attempts to solve the unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis.
More than 5,500 people are homeless – a third of them children, t ens of thousands of people are on waiting lists for a council house and rents have passed peak boom levels with a home in Dublin costing on average of 1,464 euro a month.
“From a constitutional point of view, if there’s a crisis, which there is, let’s not play around with joke solutions like modular housing. Let’s get in there and do what’s needed,” Mr Honohan said.
He later clarified his remarks saying: “I mentioned that modular housing is a joke solution. Modular housing is not, but it is at 243,000 euro a unit – at 90,000 euro let’s put them up.”
Mr Honohan said outright purchase of distressed or repossessed homes was the better solution.
He also said he does not see any reason why a rider cannot be attached to a property sale to protect a tenant – giving them first option to buy the home or time to remain to find a new place to live.
Mr Honohan said any challenge in the courts to CPOs could be fought on the basis of the state’s “housing crisis”.
“The social requirements, the social demands, the common good, overrides the right to property – that’s the bottom line,” he said.
The hearing took place as residents from an estate in Tyrrelstown, west Dublin, protested outside over the purchase of their rented homes by investors in Twinlite Developments.
Forty tenants have said they have received evictions notices and more than 100 others are in homes owned by the company.
Funke Tobun, spokeswoman for the residents, called for the Government to buy out the investors.
“We want to stay in our homes and are willing to pay reasonable, affordable mortgages or rents,” she said.
“The only way this can happen is if the government acquires the homes. There is no other way. This would save the state money anyway as many tenants will become homeless if we leave.”
Meanwhile, Mr Honohan said he had also raised concerns about the treatment of lay litigants and the lack of a “debtor friendly” approach in some divisions of the High Court.
“The impression given in the Commercial Court and elsewhere in the High Court is that big money talks,” he said.
Mr Honohan also said public private partnerships should be abandoned.