The Taoiseach today told the Dáil there were “too many people on too many councils” objecting to housing projects amid heated exchanges with the Oppostion.
Micheál Martin also told the House that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is planning to change legislation “to provide long-term security of tenure for tenants at affordable rents”.
Mr Martin said the Minster will bring in the legislation quickly to close the loophole that would allow for a potential 8 per cent increase in rents.
He also appealed to all parties and their councillors as he said they had to work on a “consensus approach” to the approval of housing projects following repeated objections to projects varying from 500 to 1,200 units .
He also told People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy that there "are too many people on too many councils across the country objecting to too many housing projects" that could provide affordable and social housing to thousands of renters.
His comments came after heated exchanges with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Mr Martin and Ms McDonald called on each other to “get the finger out” in angry exchanges over housing and potential further price increases for “generation rent”.
Mr Martin accused her of “hypocrisy on a grand scale”, insincerity and only being interested in votes because her party had consistently refused to support planning applications for housing developments.
His comments came after Ms McDonald said everything the Coalition Government does “makes life easier for big landlords and investment funds and so much harder for ripped-off renters”.
Mr Martin said he was conscious of the issue of rents and protecting tenants and he had spoken to the Minister. “He wants to give that long term security” but also to limit the scale and level of increased rents into the future.
Ms McDonald had claimed tenants could be hit with a rent increase of up to 8 per cent with the withdrawal of the emergency protections for renters next month.
She said a loophole in the “disastrous” rent pressures zone legislation “will allow renters who didn’t endure a 4 per cent increase last year to be hit on the double, a double whammy this year”.
The Dublin Central TD said legislation to be brought in by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in the autumn will be too late and should be introduced before the summer recess.
She added that “a whole generation lives in fear of not making their rent. You should get the finger out and act on behalf of these struggling renters. You’ve left them in the lurch.”
This was on top of cuts in their pandemic payments, “cutting their income support”, the Sinn Féin leader said.
Ms McDonald said the Taoiseach repeatedly rejected her party’s call for a three-year ban on rent increases, to cut rent by putting a month’s rent back into renters’ pockets through tax reliefs, and to stop apartments being bought by investors.
But Mr Martin told her she should “get the finger out” and support housing developments. He said her party had repeatedly opposed projects that people who are currently renting could get and it was “hypocrisy on a grand scale”.
He said there could not be a blanket ban on rent increases because of constitutional protections but the Government will bring a “proportionate response” to protect renters.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said Irish renters spend 40 per cent of their income on rent, adding this was the highest rate in the world. He claimed that “we have a Government of landlords for landlords.”
But the Taoiseach insisted the Coalition did not represent landlords. He said there “are too many people on too many councils across the country objecting to too many housing projects”.
Mr Martin said they had to work on a consensus approach to approving housing projects.