Thursday 22 August 2019

Donohoe blocked subsidy to help families pay rent

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Arthur Carron
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Pproposals to introduce a State subsidy for families struggling to pay their rent were vetoed by Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Donohoe strongly fought against the idea, which was tabled during discussions on Housing Minister Simon Coveney's rental strategy.

"What was being considered at a point was the development of a whole new payments system, and I was against that happening outside the budgetary cycle," Mr Donohoe said.

"I believe if we're making decisions regarding supports that are available to people, they all have to be part of how we plan all of the finances for the country. That has to happen as part of the normal budgetary process."

Mr Donohoe told the Independent.ie 'Floating Voter' podcast that he supports the final strategy, but "strongly made the point" that any additional payments outside of the existing Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and the rent supplement should not be considered.

"I was against decisions like that being taken," he said.

Mr Coveney's plan, which includes rent caps for Dublin and Cork, passed through the Seanad yesterday and will now be signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.

Mr Higgins has to sign the legislation between five and seven days after it is approved by the Seanad, meaning Mr Higgins is likely to be working over Christmas.

Just 33 out of the Upper House's 60 members were present for the vote, with the legislation passing by a vote of 24 to nine.

Landlords will now only be able to hike rents in the two cities by a maximum of 4pc per annum for the next three years.

Following a row with Fianna Fáil, Mr Coveney also committed to reviewing whether parts of Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Louth, as well as the cities of Galway, Limerick and Waterford, should be designated as 'Rent Pressure Zones' early in the new year.

Mr Donohoe denied the dispute between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was damaging to their confidence and supply arrangement in the Dáil.

"Had we entered into new year and there wasn't a rental policy then critics would justifiably be saying to us that's the failure of 'new politics'," he said.

"What new politics means is that the stuff that used to happen behind closed doors now happens in public."

During yesterday's Seanad debate Mr Coveney said: "It is the first time an Irish Government has ever introduced - in living memory anyway - a direct intervention in the private rental market to limit the rent increases that can happen. It is an appropriate and necessary measure at this time."

He said that given the crisis facing renters, it was important that the plan had "a quick transition from policy change to legislation change".

Irish Independent

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