Rent controls will extend beyond Cork and Dublin, says Minister

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael reach agreement over proposed 4% cap on rent increases

Today's Dáil was adjourned after angry exchanges over rental strategy as the chamber descended into a shouting match.

 

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have reached agreement on the controversial issue of rent caps.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has fast-tracked the examination of a number of areas including Waterford, Limerick, Galway and commuter towns to see if they are rent pressure zones.

He said areas likely to see rent pressure zones would be prioritised outside of Cork city and the four Dublin local authority areas.

“So we will be looking at counties like Meath, Louth, Kildare, Wicklow, and we will be looking at cities like Waterford, Limerick and Galway and areas continuous to Cork city,’’ he said.

“Following extensive discussions with my colleagues in Fianna Fáil, the Government is proposing to acknowledge the pressures in commuter towns in counties continuous to Dublin and in cities outside of Dublin and Cork,’’ he said.

He said it was important to reinforce the point the restrictions being legislated for were not solely confined to Dublin and Cork city.

“They will be extended to other areas as they qualify but we will make decisions on the basis of independent analysis and data through the Residential Tenancies Board,’’ he said.

“I think that is the only credible and legally sound way to do it.’’

The report will be due back at the end of January and if excessive increases a 4 per cent cap will be imposed.

The Minister committed to extending the package to other areas by the end of January.

Earlier, the Dáil adjourned to allow its business committee meet to schedule the day’s Dáil work, following a heated row about the Government’s withdrawal of legislation on its rental strategy.

This followed the breakdown in talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil late on Wednesday over the 4 per cent cap.

The withdrawal was announced by Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty and drew an angry response from the Opposition.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin proposed the House be suspended for 45 minutes, but Labour leader Brendan Howlin demanded debate on the legislation proceed.

A vote was called on Mr Howlin’s amendment. Amid continuing noisy exchanges, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams sought to intervene.

When he was repeatedly ruled out of order by Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat “The Cope’’ Gallagher, Mr Adams remarked: “New politics, my arse.’’

The Labour amendment to continue the housing debate was defeated by 79 votes to 38.

Labour TD Brendan Ryan said “as a member of the business committee the idea we would go off and discuss this is a joke’’.

The House then agreed to Mr Martin’s proposal for a 45-minute adjournment.

Earlier, Mr Coveney said the process had been agreed by all parties.

“I flagged the issue that we would probably be dealing with this amendment to the legislation in the last week before Christmas,’’ he added.

“So nobody should be taken by surprise by that.’’

Mr Martin said introducing substantive legislation pertaining to rent certainty at the 11th hour was “somewhat reckless and, in my view, disrespectful to the House’’.

He said the narrowing of space to get the issue resolved was not necessary.

Mr Howlin said the House’s expectation was that the Planning Development Housing Residential Tenancies Bill, which was to be amended to allow for the Government’s rent proposal, would be before TDs today. It would then go to the Seanad and become law next week.

“The proposal that we simply not deal with it, or that we might have a revised order later in the day if there is agreement between two parties in this House, is wholly unacceptable,’’ he added.

He said the Bill, to which amendments had been tabled, should be debated and a majority in the House determine what the policy should be.

Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said there was an expectation that the Bill dealing with the disastrous rental crisis would be considered by the Dáil today.

Mr Coveney said he would not facilitate flawed legislation and implement something not in the country’s interests.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said Fianna Fáil knew for weeks amendments would be tabled by the Minister.