Legislation will be brought to Cabinet next Tuesday to better enforce rent pressure zone designations, double the notice to quit period and introduce a rent register, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.
Leo Varadkar said the Government would introduce a rent register as recommended by the housing charity Threshold in its annual report on Wednesday. It would allow those renting to see the trends in rent rates.
He faced trenchant criticism from the Opposition over the Government’s handling of the housing crisis but rounded on party leaders and their own records.
He accused Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald of “weaponising the homeless” and said that if she really cared about homelessness she would deal with it in Derry in particular where Sinn Féin are the main party and the North in general where the party should be in government and where he said 200,000 people were homeless.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin listed a string of promised housing related legislation pledged by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy but which has yet to be delivered.
Mr Varadkar said that Labour in government had had control of housing for five years through former ministers Jan O’Sullivan and Alan Kelly in the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin hit out at the Taoiseach and said that a report in 2017 showed that rent controlled pressure zones were not working but he was only introducing reforming legislation next week, a week before the Christmas recess.
He said Threshold had received a dramatic increase in calls last year from tenants facing notices to quit by landlords who were using loopholes in the law to say they were conducting deep refurbishment or selling their property.
But the Taoiseach said that the government had introduced legislation on rent pressure zones with the help of Fianna Fail and he said 18,000 to 20,000 homes would be built this year and the social housing stock was increasing by 10,000 units.
Ms McDonald said she had raised the housing crisis with him on Tuesday and he had brushed her concerns aside. “You’re at the same craic here again this morning.”
It became evident in 2017 that some landlords and agents were not adhering to the rent pressure zone designation.
She accused the Taoiseach of giving “glib” answers and said he refused to single out renters for tax relief but singled out landlords in the budget to give them tax breaks.
“It’s time for you to admit that your attempts to control rents have categorically failed,” she said.
Mr Varadkar said it was wrong to “demonise” landlords who were needed. “Without landlords the people would have nowhere to rent,” he said.
Sinn Féin “has no monopoly on compassion” he stressed referring to the housing crisis in the North where he said Sinn Féin should be dealing with the crisis.
Mr Howlin said the Minister for Housing had pledged a number of housing Bills including one on rent control but they had yet to be published.
And when the Taoiseach criticised his party’s time in charge of housing the Labour leader said they were not interested in history lessons but in housing problems in the here and now.