The housing situation would get “far worse” under Sinn Féin, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said. He said the party’s policies would drive up rents and described its proposals as “overly negative”.
There were sharp exchanges between the Fianna Fáil leader and Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Thursday.
Mr Doherty pointed to a new report from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), which put the average rent nationally for a new tenancy at €1,574, a rise of 11.6 per cent in the past year. The Donegal TD said this was the highest annual increase ever since the hikes were first recorded more than 15 years ago. It was “clear” there were issues with landlord compliance in relation to rent pressure zones.
He said the longer the Tánaiste and his party were in Government, “the worse things get”. The Government must “urgently” introduce a ban on rent increases for new and existing tenancies, while also putting a full month’s rent back into renters’ pockets.
Mr Martin said there was positive momentum in terms of home permissions, completions, purchases and first-time buyers’ mortgage drawdowns and that “things are changing for the better”. By the end of this year 100,000 homes will have been built since the Government came into office and had started “a new era” of providing social houses in all parts of the country, with 30,000 delivered to date.
The Fianna Fáil leader added that banning rent increases would not produce one additional house and would instead reduce supply in the market and push up rents. “That would be the impact of your decision and your entire approach to the matter,” he told Mr Doherty.
Mr Martin said there did need to be support for renters, and pointed to the tax credit introduced by the Government. He said Sinn Féin had opposed the Help to Buy and First Home schemes and grants for the dereliction and vacant schemes. “You’ve opposed a hell of a lot, you’ve opposed new housing schemes across Dublin on State land because it didn’t contain all social housing.”
Meanwhile, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said renters were paying almost €350 more in rent per month since the current Government took office. This was the price of a “Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party Government”.
“An extra €4,200 per year going to their landlord since you took office,” she told the Tánaiste.
Ms Cairns said families were going without proper meals, heating and warm coats in the winter just to pay their rent. “Do you know how hopeless and trapped people feel because they can’t afford to move out of their childhood bedroom? Do you know how difficult it is to save for a house when almost all of your income is going towards your soaring rent? If you know all of this then why won’t you do anything about it? Why do you continue to gaslight the nation and come in here and tell us that this failure is somehow a success.”
The Cork South West TD said her party was calling for a rental freeze for three years, a ban on no-fault evictions and the introduction of a rent register for transparency in the area.
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