Saturday 17 August 2019

Once again, politics has let itself down – but who’s going to take responsibility?

'It will be a trial and error situation no matter who ‘wins’ the game of brinkmanship.' Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
'It will be a trial and error situation no matter who ‘wins’ the game of brinkmanship.' Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Aback of the envelope calculation tells me I've spent close to €45,000 on rent in the past five years.

In that time I've moved apartment twice for cost reasons, swapped the south side of Dublin city for the north side and continuously cohabited. I consider myself pretty lucky to have been in a position to up sticks and relocate, to have shared my home with good people and to be able to afford the sky-high prices.

So everything I write hereafter comes from someone who was more than frustrated when Simon Coveney failed to announce any real measures to tackle the rental crisis last July.

The Budget came and went with a 'Help To Buy' scheme that won't help most people looking for a permanent address.

And all the while, rent and property prices soared.

Eventually this week Mr Coveney unveiled a plan that has met resistance everywhere. Department of Finance officials want to allow the market sort itself out, but were faintly overruled by Michael Noonan who knows the political cost of doing nothing.

Others in Cabinet, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, privately expressed concerns.

Fine Gael backbenchers outside of Dublin and Cork feared that the focus on 'the big two' left them open to accusations that once again the party has forgotten about rural Ireland.

And in the era of 'new politics' this could be considered the final nail in the coffin for Mr Coveney's plan as Fianna Fáil say it "won't fly".

Once again, politics has let itself down. Everybody is agreed on the issues and that they need to be solved.

But solving it shouldn't be done against a backdrop where one man can't afford to lose because it would seriously dash his leadership ambitions and the other side don't want to be compliant because it would damage their brand.

It won't instil confidence in any of the more than 700,000 tenants across the country who have been carefully scrutinising the plan.

Market intervention is never going to easy - but neither is the situation facing 'Generation Rent'.

If you factor in social housing, nearly 30pc of the population now live in rented accommodation.

That figure has doubled in past 20 years. It's likely to double again in the next 20.

Slowly the idea that home ownership is a rite of passage is fading. In a globalised world, we should be less restricted than ever but in the current situation thousands of young people and families feel trapped.

Those who want to buy a home can't, and those that want the freedom to rent for anything more than a short period feel insecure.

The minister's plan was far from perfect.

Designating Dublin and Cork was 'Rent Pressure Zones' is a blunt approach that would have a spill-over affect for the commuter belt.

And many of the measures announced on the supply side are based more on hope than solid, targeted spending.

In his letter to Barry Cowen yesterday, Mr Coveney noted that there "is no single homogeneous market" in this country.

He argued that Fianna Fáil's attempt to bring in a lower rent cap than 4pc "would effectively be trying to introduce rent controls while encouraging supply".

"Moreover where rent controls are too strong, black market distortions and inefficiencies can emerge over time," he said.

And at various stages in the correspondence Mr Coveney notes that both the Government and Fianna Fáil share the same desire to fix the market.

The truth is nobody knows the answer. It will be a trial and error situation, no matter the outcome of this game of brinkmanship.

But in the meantime we are subjected to another fine mess in the name of 'New Politics'.

Bravo boys.

Irish Independent

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