Friday 24 February 2017

Housing meeting pulled due to lack of compromise

Fionnan Sheahan and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD has cancelled a crucial meeting on a housing plan for the budget
Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD has cancelled a crucial meeting on a housing plan for the budget

Taoiseach Enda Kenny cancelled a crucial meeting on a housing plan for the Budget because Environment Minister Alan Kelly wouldn't compromise on rent caps.

The Cabinet sub-committee on housing was supposed to finalise a package to be included in the Budget.

The talks with Mr Kelly had broken down the previous week, when it was made clear his rent certainty would not be adopted.

Instead the offer on the table was for rent caps for accommodation where the tenants were getting State payments, in return for tax relief for the landlords concerned.

Labour sources say that when Mr Kelly's adviser asked how this would address the homeless situation, he was met with "blank faces".

But Finance Minister Michael Noonan was concerned that bringing in rent certainty as outlined by Mr Kelly would damage supply to the market.

Officials and political advisers to Mr Kenny, Mr Noonan and Mr Kelly met on the weekend before the Budget to try to resolve the impasse.

However the follow-up meeting was cancelled once it became apparent no agreement would be reached.

"It's a one-way row. The idea that Noonan would pick a fight with a minister just doesn't happen. Kelly walked away from a deal that could have helped a lot of people. You have to make deals," a minister said.

Government sources believe Mr Kelly thought he had got agreement without putting in the ground work. "Elements of this were being briefed to make it look like it was agreed. It's the oldest trick in the book."

However, Labour sources hit back saying that Mr Kelly "was always willing to make a deal" but got the impression alleviating family homelessness "was not a budget priority".

"In the face of a growing family homeless crisis, there had to be something there for working families who are facing the threat of homelessness.

"We have three families a day becoming homeless and more that face being kicked out of hotels over the Christmas period. We have rent regulations that are now 11 years old. We have a severe housing shortage.

"Supply takes time. Fine Gael were planning the election and these families didn't appear a priority,"

Irish Independent

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