Tuesday 20 August 2019

Fianna Fáil table a series of amendments to Simon Coveney’s rental strategy

Minister Simon Coveney announces his plan for the rental sector. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Minister Simon Coveney announces his plan for the rental sector. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil has formally tabled a series of amendments to Simon Coveney’s rental strategy as they engage in a serious game of brinkmanship with the Government.

Mr Coveney and Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesperson Barry Cowen are meeting tonight to try reach a compromise that will allow the new rental plan pass through the Dáil tomorrow.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told a Fine Gael meeting that if Mr Cowen doesn’t back down from a demand to halve the proposed rent increase cap from 4pc annually to 2pc, then the idea of ‘Rent Pressure Zones’ will be scrapped.

This would be a major blow to Mr Coveney’s authority and leave Fianna Fáil facing accusations that they have left tenants open to rent hikes while a new plan is developed.

Sources told Independent.ie a meeting of Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party heard diverging views on how the party should approach the row.

However, the key issue raised by TDs was not the level of the rent cap but that the RPZs should be extended beyond Dublin and Cork.

Minister Simon Coveney announces his plan for the rental sector. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Minister Simon Coveney announces his plan for the rental sector. Photo: Doug O’Connor

An amendment placed by Fianna Fáil this evening states that the city areas of Galway, Waterford and Limerick would immediately be designated as RPZs.

It adds that the “surrounding environs of those cities as designated by the Minister”.

A Fianna Fáil source said: “We want to leave the Dáil this week with something done but it’s up to Simon Coveney to accept the flaws in his plan and change them.”

However, a government described the meetings between Mr Coveney and Mr Cowen in the past 24 hours as “collegial”.

“We have done as well as we can on this,” they said.

Housing Crisis Q&A: What is a Rent Pressure Zone?

Why just Dublin and Cork?

For an area to be designated as a RPZ the average rent registered with the Residential Tenancies Board must be above the national average and rising at a year-on-year rate of 7pc for four out of the last six months. Dublin and Cork city have been deemed as qualifying for the changes immediately but the RTB will have to study the rest of the country.

Are all rental properties in Dublin and Cork covered?

No. Properties that are new to the market (not leased at any time in the previous two years) will be exempt as will properties that have been "substantially refurbished".

What happens after three years?

A RPZ status ends automatically after three years meaning the rent review process will revert to normal.

There were calls to link rent increases to the rate of inflation. Why didn't Simon Coveney take this approach?

The minister said a "blunt rent cap" would disincentive landlords entering the market and "literally shut off supply overnight". Noting that inflation for this year is negative, Mr Coveney said: "We want landlords to make a reasonable return."

How does this affect the 'rent certainty' measures introduced last year?

The last government introduced measures that restricted rent reviews to every two years. This rule will still apply outside of RPZs. They will cease to apply in Dublin and Cork but not until rents fall due for review.

What supply measures are being proposed?

The minister has announced a series of measures aimed at kick-starting supply, including:

- Examining the tax/fiscal treatment of accommodation providers

- Using publicly owned land for development

- Promoting a build to rent model

- Supporting credit availability for bringing vacant stock into the private rental market.

- Exploring the potential to bring into use, for rental purposes, vacant properties where owners move to a nursing home under the Fair Deal scheme.

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