Kelly may introduce legislation to deal with high cost of rent

Minister for the Environment says some landlords feel they can get away with scandalous increases in rent

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin speaks to Michael O'Regan at the annual Labour party conference in Killarney. Video: Bryan O'Brien


Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has said he is not ruling out introducing legislation to deal with the high cost of rental accommodation.

“We need to bring about certainty with various different regulations, and legislation if necessary, to change this,’’ he said.

Mr Kelly told delegates, at the party’s annual conference in Killarney, that the single biggest issue in his portfolio related to rent.

“We have a situation where landlords feel, in some cases, they can get away with increases in rent that are absolutely scandalous,’’ he added.

“We need to bring an end to that.’’

Niall Kelly, Galway, said one-in-five households relied on the private rental sector for housing, which was the highest since the 1950s.

“Since 2012, rents in the Dublin area have increased by approximately 30 per cent, and that is now spreading to other urban areas and cities across the country,’’ he added.

There was a need, said Mr Kelly, to address control of rent increases.

“In many European countries, rent regulation is the norm and it prevents landlords from increasing rents, in some cases restricting increases to perhaps 16 per cent to 20 per cent over a three-year period,’’ he added.

Eamonn Moloney TD said the argument had been advanced that rents could not be frozen because of constitutional issues.

“But what use is a Constitution that only protects landlords ?,’’ he asked. “We are the Labour party, we should protect tenants.’’

Senator Aideen Hayden said Labour needed to take the issue on board. She said she had speaking to a delegate who was part of “generation rent’’, where they did not have the aspiration to own their own homes.

“Neither will they, in the short-term at least, have the aspiration to have secure social housing,’’ she added.

Ms Hayden said there was a need to change “the way we do business in the rented sector’’.

She said the debate was not about old fashioned rent control, where an old lady was paying five pounds a week for the rest of her life.

A motion from the Galway city branch, calling for the introduction of an effective form of rent control, similar to what was in operation in European and North American regions, was referred to the party’s national council.