Are landlords the bad guys? Depends on your view really…

A search for company related updates threw up an interesting thread on the PropertyPin (which we got banned from for slagging off a moderator who lives with his mum about it). The thread had the usual round of well intended commentary such as this:

“Landlords are some of the finest stock of people when it comes to protecting vulnerable people”
Karl Deeter, mortgage broker & landlord, Radio1 1130 17/12/12

This type of tangential criticism is normally reserved for Brendan O’Connor (‘smart ballsy’ comment) and Marc Coleman (‘best is yet to come’) type remarks that can be seen as being out of context with reality.

In some cases it’s because the quote actually is out of touch with reality, other times though it just helps to facilitate a logical fallacy where an assumed set of values implies a certain invalidity.

In this example it is that landlords cannot protect vulnerable people, nor do they want to. Perhaps to say they are ‘some of the finest’ is exaggeration on my behalf, but with the amount of homelessness that would occur should they all stop doing this at once it is only an exaggeration because of a latent problem which has not happened.

Should it happen (obviously it won’t) we’d see the scale of their contribution to protecting the vulnerable. I attribute this to a cultural dislike of landlords, because the actual facts speak for themselves. There is also an assumption that doing something where money is made is morally wrong, or lacks good intentions. I would remind people that we regularly help full time workers of charities buy their first home (and we are honoured to do so), but that they don’t work for free, nor do they work for the bare minimum required to subsist, and yet nobody points to that and has an outcry about it.

Minister for housing and planning said only last week at the IBF conference that the State needs private landlords as the solution to our social housing dilemma because the state doesn’t have the capital to deploy itself. Threshold have echoed these thoughts, and there are over 100,000 people on a housing list for which there is no supply coming on stream.

So It is (in my opinion) true that landlords should be commended for providing shelter to those who cannot afford it themselves and for whom the state has failed to provide. Whether they are a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ landlord is a separate consideration, the point here is are they good in terms of providing shelter to the vulnerable, and the answer when viewed empirically is yes.

And as for my own claim of exaggeration about being ‘the finest’. When viewed empirically (versus the alternative) landlords are doing a better job in providing new low income housing than the state is so they are (in a very narrow field) ‘the finest’.

The answer in Ireland to social housing is going to be a private sector solution to a public problem, and if people think ‘that’s awful because somebody might profit from it’ I would ask them to proffer the same question to any full time member of the Simon Community, Bernardo’s or any other worthy and worthwhile charity. Profit is not a sin, profiteering may be but getting a return is not.

In the last 10yrs the state has only managed (with comparatively endless resources at its disposal for several years of that decade) to bring in 25,000 new social housing homes at a cost of €2bn. Bearing in mind they pay nothing for land and no contribution costs and have many other factors of production in their favour, you would think that they should be a country mile ahead of everybody else, but they aren’t.

Housing Finance Agency is also looking to private solutions to social housing, again, because the state is not able to perform this task.

So when some other people comment saying I am hoping for an out of context clarification here, Karl cannto have completely lost the marbles, time was he contributed very significantly to the Pin IMO, perhaps he has Stockholm Syndrome since being taken hostage by their media?” I have to answer ‘no, I simply don’t take a default cultural stance on things’.

And the posting of a PRTB judgement in my favour on the same site doesn’t mean I am ‘not pro-tenant’ as suggested, I’m agnostic, there are good and bad people everywhere, some own houses, others rent those houses. I am not however agnostic when it comes to the PRTB who almost never fulfil their obligations with the same zest for property owners as they do for those who lease them.

Finally, I do think that giving people a quality home, a place of safety, held to high standards is a valid and worthwhile endeavour. I have seen shocking conditions all over the world, from the Favelas in Brasil, to the Villas in other parts of South and Central America, to shanty towns in Asia, all convinced me of the importance for a good housing stock and that if you are going to be in that market to provide high standards.

Lastly, if the least one ever does is help a person less well off to have a nice home, or to spare a person for whom ownership is not available or desirable to have a good home in exchange for a rental payment then life is going just fine in my opinion.

Leave a Comment

Awesome! You've decided to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated.