'Rent certainty' can bring benefits for all
Published 01/06/2015 | 02:30
Environment Minister Alan Kelly favours the term "rent certainty". That is probably because it is less likely to frighten his Government partners in Fine Gael than talk about "rent controls". But, call it what you will, it has a lot of potential for good.
For a variety of historical reasons, Irish people like to own their own homes. But the economic turmoil of the past decade has forced many people to fall back on the private-rental sector.
Private landlords now comprise a big segment of the housing market. In the bigger population centres - Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Galway - up to one in three families is in private-rented accommodation.
That ratio is not going to change any time soon. The need to supply more suitable homes in appropriate locations will not be met for some years.
Meanwhile, a shortage is driving up rents, and vulnerable people on low incomes are suffering. Simply raising social rent allowances always risks further inflating rents.
So, some form of control has to be contemplated. Mr Kelly told his Labour colleagues at his party's national conference in Killarney back in February that he was actively working on this issue.
The move comes with many legal complexities which must be overcome. But now the signs are that we are close to a resolution and rent rises will in future be aligned with inflation rates.
This would be a welcome move for many families who constantly fear a rent hike. But it will be less welcome to landlords, who will point to their overheads and the need to allow the market to regulate itself.
But the reality is that a fair system of rent regulation also brings benefits for property owners in the longer term. It will bring a level of stability to markets in the medium term, which could benefit everyone. It will also promote a culture of responsible renting among tenants, most of whom will respond to fair treatment.
Rent regulation is not just driven by ideology. It is a feature of many thriving economies and is well worth trying in this country.
We look forward to action on this issue soon.