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Rising rents for new tenancies ‘not satisfactory’, says Taoiseach

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TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the increasing rents for new tenancies is “not satisfactory” and “worrying”.

Rent levels for new tenancies remained high at the end of 2021, with rents in Dublin still highest at €1,972 per month, according to a new report.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) rent index measures rental price developments faced by those taking up new tenancies in the private rental sector.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Martin said that there has been a ramping up in supply, with an increase in commencements, as well as a four-fold increase in planning permissions.

However, he acknowledged that an increase in supply is the solution.

‘Off the wall’

Paying nearly €2,000 per month for rent in Dublin is “off the wall”, according to Sinn Féin Leader Mary McDonald.

She asked how people are meant to pay these soaring rents, calling it a “social catastrophe”.

The Government’s Housing for All policy is failing, she said, something the Taoiseach disputed.

“The number of properties to rent continues to fall right across the state. And this doesn’t just push up the cost of renting it is also forcing many families into homelessness,” she said.

McDonald asked the Taoiseach to impose a three-year rent freeze and to put money back in the pockets of renters through a rent credit that would give one month’s rent back to tenants.

The Taoiseach said the Sinn Féin tax credit would only add to the price of rents and would be “inflationary”.

There is “no guarantee at all” that it would result in a reduction on increasing rents for new tenancies, “none whatsoever”, he said.

There’s an onus on everybody to facilitate the supply of housing, he said, accusing Sinn Féin of objecting to planning applications.

People Before Profit Mick Barry said he would not ask the Taoiseach to freeze rents, as it would freeze them now at “unjust” prices. He called for legislation to cut rents.

Housing crisis response

Independent Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Taoiseach “why is to same effort not being used” to deal with the housing crisis as has been shown with dealing with the response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

He wanted to make clear that he fully supported the humanitarian to house those arriving from Ukraine, but criticized local authorities effort for not acting fast enough when refurbishing vacant properties.

The Taoiseach said that the Housing for All policy is working and record investment for housing has been committed to.

Martin said it is not right to “juxtaposition” the housing crisis with the Ukrainian refugee situation.

“It’s not one or the other,” he said, adding that no member of the House should present it as so.

It is an such situation, he added, stating that the comparisons are “not the right approach”.

Vacant properties around the country are being targeted, said the Taoiseach. Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has announced an increased void program to bring vacant properties back into use, he added.

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Vulture funds

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett also raised housing with the Taoiseach today, telling him that three residents of St Helen’s complex were watching Leaders’ Questions from the public gallery.

A vulture firm will seek an enforcement order to evict them from their homes this week, he told the Taoiseach.

Those living at the St Helen’s complex in Dun Laoghaire have been fighting the notices to vacate their homes by two investment firms which own the properties over the last five years.

“They’ve never done anything wrong. They paid their rent. Once upon a time they were part of a community of 20 tenants, a fabulous community that has been destroyed by the greed of vulture funds,” he said.

“I think it is fair to say that their lives have been ruined,” he said, stating that one of the residents suffered a stroke due to the stress of the threat of eviction.

Boyd Barrett asked how the Government can stand by and let vulture funds evict residents, while also leaving over 15 apartments in the complex empty during a time when accommodation is in demand.

He also criticized the ‘Tyrrelstown amendment’ which was introduced by Government in 2016.

The amendment aims to prevent a large number of residents in a development being evicted all at once. However, it does allow for 10 tenants to be evicted at any one time.

Boyd Barrett said this is giving a loophole to vulture funds in terms of evictions.

The Taoiseach said a number of residents of St Helen’s have been offered an alternative accomodation and the Housing Department is working with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council on the matter.

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