Thursday 18 January 2018

Kelly rejected deal to help low-income families with rent

Under fire: Environment Minister Alan Kelly
Under fire: Environment Minister Alan Kelly

Fionnan Sheahan and Kevin Doyle

Environment Minister Alan Kelly turned down a Budget deal which would have benefited lower income families who are renting as he dug in demanding a rent freeze, the Irish Independent has learnt.

Mr Kelly was offered rent certainty limited to families getting rent supplement from the State, but he rejected it.

The uncertainty caused by the Coalition's bungling of rent policy is now believed to be driving up rents and limiting investment in property.

The rent and property market policy was supposed to be included in the Budget, but the plan fell apart after the Department of Finance made its concerns known.

The offer at the time, excluding rent controls, was for:

  • increases in funding for the Housing Assistance Payment;
  • stronger protections for tenants;
  • tax breaks to kick-start affordable housing.

"That deal was targeted specifically at the most vulnerable and low-paid families, the very type of people who are falling into homelessness. It's unconscionable that he is playing dog in the manger on this," a senior Government source said.

Sources close to Mr Kelly last night said the offer was "piecemeal" and not "an effective way of tackling family homelessness". "Why sign up to something you know is not going to work?" said the source.

The Labour Party deputy leader is now being nicknamed 'Calamity Kelly', by his own party colleagues, on the back of a spate of solo runs.

"It's Alan versus everybody in this row," said a source.

Fine Gael are furious at what they see as a refusal by Mr Kelly to allow some parts of the plan be unveiled while negotiations about rent certainty continue.

"Kelly won't agree to anything until he's got everything. He's like James Reilly when he was in health. He thinks you can come in, bang the table and the world will stop.

"If you look for 10 things and you get eight most people would say good. But Alan wants 10 out of 10," said a source.

As the rift worsened, sources close to Mr Kelly confirmed that he believes the full suite of measures should be revealed in one go.

"Every measure interacts. Announcing the supply side doesn't solve the short-term issues, but just doing something on the rent supplement in isolation can cause unintended consequences.

"Fine Gael seem to be happy for families to be sleeping on the streets in the run-up to Christmas. One of the reasons they wanted the election early is so they wouldn't have to deal with homelessness over Christmas.

"Having come through Irish Water - a blue-shirt botch up - Kelly won't be too bothered by any of this," a source close to Mr Kelly said.

Government sources say the proposal to bring about rent certainty is "going nowhere fast".

"Everyone is waiting for Kelly to come forward with proposals but he's too busy blaming everyone else.

"Given that he already rejected a pretty good deal before the Budget, you wouldn't be too optimistic about an outcome."

The housing package is not on the agenda for tomorrow's Cabinet meeting but may be raised by concerned ministers.

Mr Kelly also came under fire from the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers yesterday, who demanded that he justify a statement he made at the weekend suggesting builders were "still being greedy and expecting boom-time profits".

Its chief executive, Pat Davitt, said builders are having to borrow money at exorbitant rates and it was up to the Government to solve the problem to promote home building.

Irish Independent

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