Nama and Minister for Finance to be asked to investigate rental cartel claims
Government ’in denial’ over housing crisis as families sleep in cars, says TD
Mick Wallace: said rents in Dublin were going through the roof because huge numbers of apartments, including ones he developed, “have been sold en bloc as opposed to individually, for less than half the amount that it would cost to build them today”. Photograph: Alan Betson
Claims that property speculators are operating a rental cartel on blocks of apartments will be investigated, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has pledged.
She said she would bring the matter to the attention of the National Asset Management Agency and the Minister for Finance “in order that they might investigate what is happening”.
Ms Burton was responding in the Dáil to Independent TD Mick Wallace, who said rents in Dublin were going through the roof because huge numbers of apartments, including ones he developed, “have been sold en bloc as opposed to individually, for less than half the amount that it would cost to build them today”.
An increasing number of rental properties are in the hands of fewer people, he said, resulting in the “development of a cartel in the rental market. Due to the fact that they own so many rental properties, speculators can dictate the price.” The Wexford TD was speaking during social protection question time.
Heated exchanges followed accusations that Ms Burton was “in denial” over homelessness. Independent TD Catherine Murphy criticised the Minister and the media over the lack of attention to a significant number of people in crisis.
Ms Murphy said she met a family last week “who slept in a car with their child”. They asked the local authority what they should do the following night and “were told to find a friend or a relative they could stay with”, she said. “The family in question has been homeless for eight weeks. I could give a litany of people who are in the same position.
“The Minister and the Government are in denial,” she added, and plans to build 500 houses “will be in no way sufficient to meet requirements”.
The shortage of local authority housing meant people were dependent almost exclusively on the rental sector, Ms Murphy said. “Market rents are significantly higher than the rent caps prescribed by the department, which means tenants are obliged to pay top-ups to landlords.”
Focus Ireland and the Simon Community said the department was well aware that topping up was happening on a widespread basis, she said.
Ms Burton insisted “no evidence has been presented to the department showing widespread incidence of illegal top-ups, although I am aware of reports of the problem”.
She said there was legislation to deal with such offences.
Ms Murphy said she did not know what country the Minister was living in. Ms Burton, she said, was “not aware of the reality that exists for people who live in the larger urban centres throughout the country. She is in complete denial.”