Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein brings rent freeze measure to the Dail

The party’s housing spokesman, Eoin O Broin, urged support for the Rent Freeze (Fair Rent) Bill 2019, which would reduce and freeze rents.

(Niall Carson/PA)
(Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

An emergency measure to freeze rents across Ireland has been brought to the Dail by Sinn Fein.

The party’s housing spokesman, Eoin O Broin, urged support for the Rent Freeze (Fair Rent) Bill 2019, which would reduce and freeze rents.

The Bill, if passed, would provide a refundable tax credit for all renters and a three-year rent freeze, with a review at its conclusion.

Mr O Broin said this would put up to 1,500 euro per year back in the pockets of renters.

He conceded that the measure could not work indefinitely, but said it has been shown to work in other jurisdictions if adequate capital investment funding is then put in place to remedy housing pressures, as the state battles its worst ever homeless crisis.

The average monthly rent in Dublin is 2,044 euro, up 3.9% from November last year.

Rents in Dublin have more than doubled since late 2010, while the average monthly rent in Ireland is 1,403 euro, according to a report from property website Daft.ie.

“For the last two years we’ve called for rents to be reduced and frozen and the Bill in front of us today will do just that,” Mr O Broin said.

“It’s an emergency measure to give renters a breathing space, and to allow the Government to significantly invest in affordable rental accommodation for working people. We’d like to see 2,000-3,000 units in affordable rent delivered next year and increasing the years after.

“We need the Government to stop using the private rental sector to meet social housing need. There’s 100,000 social housing tenants in private rent which increases demand and price in the sector.”

  • Dublin - 2,044 euro
  • Rest of Ireland - 1,043 euro

Mr O Broin said there is a precedent for the tax break, having been previously introduced by Fianna Fail but ended in 2010.

The Bill is expected to gain cross-party support, with a frontbench meeting of main opposition party Fianna Fail expected to back the measure in an emergency capacity ahead of the debate in the Dail on Tuesday evening.

“The opposition has the numbers to pass this through,” Mr O Broin added.

“Micheal Martin only two weeks ago at Leaders’ Questions said he believed the Government should consider a rent freeze, so it’s time for Fianna Fail to decide are they on the side of renters.”

It was put to Mr O Broin that the Government is likely to argue that corporate landlords will be disincentivised to provide housing during a freeze.

“We’ve seen about an extra 3,000 rental properties come on to the market in the last two quarters, and the reason why is because the real estate investment trusts pay no tax on the rental, no capital gains tax, and get very, very favourable tax treatment, alongside the fact that the rents are charging at the highest in the history of the state,” he said.

“So if anybody says freezing rents at that level is any way going to disincentivise investment, they’re not looking at the numbers.”

At the moment, more extreme measures have to be considered and a rent freeze is one Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fail

Asked about Fianna Fail’s position on the Bill, the party’s health spokesman, Stephen Donnelly, said the freeze would have to be a short-term measure.

“At the moment, more extreme measures have to be considered and a rent freeze is one, and one that Micheal Martin has advocated for,” he said.

“My own view is, in an emergency you have to look at a lot of different options, and the reality is people can’t afford to pay their rent and an entire generation has given up on owning a home.”

Last week, a survey found that Dublin was ranked the worst city on Earth in which to find affordable accommodation.

The Expat City Ranking 2018 cited a combination of soaring rents and stagnant housing stock.

PA

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