Tuesday 21 May 2019

Taoiseach rejects further call for rent freeze to tackle housing issue

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called for the Government to do something ‘tangible’.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail he would not be supporting rent freeze proposals (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail he would not be supporting rent freeze proposals (Niall Carson/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

The Taoiseach has rejected a further call by Sinn Fein to introduce a rent freeze to alleviate the housing crisis.

Leo Varadkar said he would not be supporting Sinn Fein’s proposal to put a cap rent increases for three years because he would rather give tax cuts to all workers struggling with bills and not just renters.

“No that’s not a proposal we’re supporting,” Mr Varadkar said.

“We’ve an alternative proposal which is in the finance bill.

“Rather than just giving income tax cuts to people who are renting we’re giving them to all workers because other people struggle…it’s not just people who are renting.”

Mr Varadkar made the comments after Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald made a fresh appeal in the Dail on Tuesday for the Government to put a cap on rents.

“I want to suggest to you that you introduce a three-year rent freeze and a temporary tax relief for renters with immediate fact,” she said.

She accused the Fine Gael leader and his Government of being “incapable of meaningful action” when it came to the homeless and housing crisis.

Her remarks came after thousands took to the capital’s streets on Saturday to protest the homeless situation.

Almost 10,000 people are recorded as homeless, according to the latest statistics.

A rough sleeper outside Custom House in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

New figures from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, released on Monday, found a 40% increase in the number of people sleeping rough.

Some 156 people were sleeping rough in the capital compared to 110 last spring.

“That is shocking,” Ms McDonald said.

“The crisis is real Taoiseach…people are frankly fed up waiting for you to get your act together,” she said.

“People are being screwed day in day out with runaway rents and it seems your government is incapable of meaningful action.

“You seem to have a speciality in empty promises.”

“We need something tangible to help people who are struggling.”

The Taoiseach described the rough sleepers count figures as “very disappointing”.

He told the Dail that at Christmas time people thoughts inevitably turned to those who are less fortunate and don’t have shelter.

“That’s why the figures….in terms of rough sleepers were very disappointing,” he said.

He added: “It wasn’t the highest ever by any means, it was higher a year ago, and it was higher four years ago, but it does represent an increase on the last count.”

He said an extra 203 emergency beds would be available by the end of the year, 51 of those are already in place, so that there would be emergency accommodation for everyone that needed it this winter.

Mr Varadkar added that when it came to supply issues, he did not think it was a case of promises anymore, and that by the end of this year 20,000 people will be spending Christmas in homes that did not exist last year.

Press Association

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