By Manus Lenihan
“Save Our Homes” was the clear message on placards outside Riverview Apartments in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath on Friday, 10 February.
Late last year, there was a change in the complex’s ownership and a threat of rent rises. Then, in the new year, the 30-plus private tenants received eviction notices. They were told they had until July to uproot themselves and find somewhere new to live – a scary prospect in today’s brutal housing market.
There are people who’ve lived there ten or 15 years or more and others who have just settled in with small kids. Tenants and the public are being kept in the dark about what’s going on. Probably, landlords planned to raise the rent (hence the earlier threat of rent rises), but were stopped by Rent Pressure Zone laws. So they are resorting to a mass eviction instead. This is an example of why we need an immediate ban on evictions.
A group of 30 people, organised by the residents themselves, gathered on Friday to make sure every passing pedestrian and car got the message. It was an impressively diverse protest, with people of many different generations, backgrounds and languages.
Symptom of housing crisis
There are now over 13,000 people in emergency accommodation nationally. We’ve had over ten years of one failed housing minister after another offering market-based ‘solutions’ such as tax credits for landlords.
But this housing crisis is only possible because we have a housing market that is designed for private profit. A house or apartment is not seen as a place to live but only as a cash cow for someone who’s already rich. This leads to situations such as this one, where people face being evicted for profit. This is why socialists call for public housing for all, provided by a state construction company that would cut out all profiteering and speculating, and just focus on putting roofs over people’s heads. Apartments and houses in the private hands of vulture and cuckoo funds should be seized by the state and used as public housing stock.
There are positive and negative rumours, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen. What’s clear is that the Riverview residents should be applauded for taking action against the threat of mass eviction. Residents should build on this demonstration and organise to refuse to leave. Leeside Apartments in Cork City provides an example of tenants fighting mass eviction, and winning