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Ban rent increases for three years, says Sinn Féin after 82pc rise in the last 12 years

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SINN Féin has called for rent increases to be banned for three years, after a bombshell new report revealed Irish rents have increased by 82pc over the last 12 years compared to an European average of just 18pc.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said those statistics were a “punch in the gut” for renters and demonstrated a “rip-off on a massive scale”. She also called for a month’s rent refundable credit for tenants.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath, standing in for the Taoiseach who is in Albania, listed off a series of Government initiatives in response. “Of course we need more, and the Government is providing a record level of resources,” he said.

He said that for once in this nation’s history the availability of funding was not an issue and emphasised the role to be played by private developers and local authorities.

Ms McDonald said the Government’s policies were driving a generation of young people to emigrate. The Government had dragged its feet and was engaging in fairy tales, pretending its approach was working when it was manifestly failing, she said.

Mr McGrath said Sinn Féin would slap a new €400 annual tax on rental properties and would increase income tax on landlords. His was the only side of the House that had a fully-funded future plan, he said.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said Irish rents had increased by four times the EU average, according to the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland, which laid bare the extent of the crisis, which was having “disastrous consequences on every aspect of life in Ireland”.

Teachers could no longer afford to live in Dublin and other cities, causing another knock-on crisis in education, she pointed out. Meanwhile the country was still waiting for the new vacant homes tax, first proposed in 2016 and announced in the Budget. A rate had been set, but at only 0.3pc of the value, which was so low as to be “laughable”, she said.

House prices were increasing by over 10pc annually, she said, so sitting on a vacant house would still handsomely pay the homeowner. She called on Mr McGrath, when he becomes Finance Minister in the next fortnight, to impose a truly punitive empty homes tax.

Mr McGrath accepted there was a problem in Ireland with “under-utilised housing stock”, referring to upper storeys without lights at night over shops in towns and cities. The vacant homes tax was coming in, and would prompt more property to come back into use, he said, although people could always argue over the rate, he said. The tax would play a part, but there were always reasons why a property would stay vacant.

Ms Shortall said there were “tens of thousands of houses lying idle”, while two-thirds of nursing graduates were considering emigrating. Such decisions were all down to the cost of accommodation.

Mr McGrath said the new tax, now legislated for, was three times the Local Property Tax rate, and would be kept under review. “The imperative now is to get this up and running,” he said.


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