The Housing Minister has labelled a proposed rent-freeze and tax relief for tenants as “unconstitutional” and warned such a move would drive landlords out of the market.
Speaking in the Dail on Tuesday evening, Minister Eoghan Murphy admitted rents are “impossibly” high but said that an emergency rent freeze is not the solution.
He was speaking after a Bill, tabled by Sinn Fein, proposed a three-year rent freeze as well as a special tax rebate for tenants.
The legislation is being backed by Fianna Fail and will be voted on on Thursday.
If it passes the Housing Committee stage, the Bill would see the introduction of a three-year, state-wide rent freeze and a refundable tax credit to renters equivalent to one months rent.
However, Fine Gael will oppose the Bill with Minister Murphy arguing that a rent freeze would be “unconstitutional”, claiming it would force landlords out of the market and damage supply.
Speaking to The Echo ahead of his party tabling the Bill, Cork South-Central TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (SF) said:
“It would be a big help to many renters in Cork and across Ireland.” The Cork TD hit out at rising rents in Cork, saying the average now stands at €1,372.
“At the end of the day rent in Ireland is too high.
“To solve it, we need mass social and affordable housing schemes, the likes of which Sinn Fein has been proposing for some time.
“But in the meantime, we need this rent freeze and the tax relief would also be a huge help.
“It’s clear that rent pressure zones are not working and many areas aren’t even covered by them.
“The system is not working so we need a rent freeze - it’s absolutely essential.
“The combination of this rent freeze, tax relief and a focus on significant growth of social and affordable housing over the three year freeze is badly needed.” Deputy O’Laoghaire welcomed Fianna Fail’s support for the Bill but added it was a pity it took them so long to back the idea.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Darragh O'Brien said:
“We will be supporting the Sinn Féin Bill so as to allow further discussion at Committee Stage.
“The Bill requires detailed pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure that there are no unintended consequences,” he added.
Cork TD Mick Barry (Solidarity) voiced his support for the rent freeze.
"A rent freeze actually would represent a very modest policy because what are actually need now are drastic rent reductions,” he said.
"Fine Gael in Government have pursued a policy of class warfare.
“They have allowed rents to rise at a rate which is more than double the rate of wage increases,” he added.
“This policy has made landlords rich and workers poor and it's time to bring these crippling rent rises to a halt.” If the Bill is passed on Thursday, it will go before the Oireachtas Housing Committee which has members from several parties including two TDs from Fine Gael, two from Fianna Fail, one each from Solidarity, Independents and Sinn Fein.
It also includes one Senator each from Independents, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party.