The Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has said he is "not remotely scared of institutional investors" when it comes to bringing in measures such as caps on rent increases to protect tenants.
Mr O'Brien was visiting purpose built student accommodation in University College Dublin on Thursday as part of a Housing Finance Agency event.
Speaking about new housing reforms brought to cabinet this week, including a 2 per cent cap on rent increases, or a link to inflation if it is lower than this, the Minister said Ireland "needs investment in the right places, and where it is appropriate".
“For those who say we don’t need investments, that’s just not true. The exchequer can’t pay for everything but the exchequer is the biggest investor, the State is the biggest investor,” he said.
Over €20 billion in housing measures, affordability measures and social housing had been committed to, he said, adding that he had “no fear of institutional investors”.
“The measures that have been brought forward in relation to protecting tenants, right the way through the pandemic, in relation to affordability and new forms of tenure actually prove that,” he said.
“These are not just short-term measures. This is legislation that will endure. Going back a couple of years, it was 4 per cent per year.”
The Minister said he needed to ensure any measures brought forward were “not going to lead to any unintended consequences for the rental market”.
The cap would be “kept under review in the legislation every 12 months or so, because it is a significant change”.
“It provides certainty within the sector, particularly for tenants as well.”
Rents for t he student accommodation Mr O’Brien was visiting in UCD range from €831 per month up to €1,300 per month for “penthouse” accommodation.
Asked whether the Minister thought this was affordable for students, he said: “I’m not saying that they’re affordable. I’m not. Each student and their families will make decisions on that.”
“I’m here looking at new student accommodation, which we need. I’ve been at pains to say to all universities that we need affordable rents for our students, and affordable rents both on campus and off campus,” he said.
The Minister acknowledged that rents were “too high” and said the cost would be “brought down by delivering on supply”.
Separately, the Minister was asked about the maritime planning bill, after a Norwegian energy company Equinor confirmed it was ceasing involvement with plans to develop offshore wind electricity generation capacity off the coast of Ireland in partnership with the ESB.
Mr O’Brien said Equinor’s withdrawal from the Irish market “will not inhibit our delivery of offshore wind delivery, in no way shape or form”.
Equinor “have exited a lot of markets” and there were over 70 other operators who were interested in operating off Ireland’s maritime area, he said.