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Paul Melia: 'Property owners not to blame for State ignoring issue up to now'

  

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It appears that more property owners are listing their homes for short-term letting today compared with a year ago in order to make a quick buck before an effective ban comes into force in summer.

While unpalatable to those in homeless accommodation, or families struggling to find affordable homes, it's not the fault of these owners that the housing sector is completely unfit for purpose.

Their concern is making money until short-term lets are subject to new regulations, and the window to do so is closing.

Key to ensuring that people living in cities, and not just visiting, can rent accommodation are the powers and resources that will be granted to local authorities to police the new arrangements.

There will also be a need to support officials who refuse permission to let on a short-term basis, and councils should probably prepare themselves for legal battles ahead.

People are absolutely correct to fume about the growth of a lucrative short-term letting market as the most profound housing crisis in living memory continues apace.

It's true that some who own multiple properties refuse to let to ordinary workers and students, but that's their right. It's not their fault the State has failed to provide housing since the crash.

Of course, even if the new regulations restrict the ability of owners to do as they see fit with their properties, it's far from certain that sizeable numbers of additional homes will become available to 'ordinary' workers and families, and what difference they will make.

The most recent figures show just under 40,000 households are on social housing waiting lists in our five cities.

The AirDNA analysis suggests that just under 5,900 properties are let on a short-term basis in these same locations. Would utilising these units solve the council housing crisis?

In a time when any property coming onto the rental market is welcomed, it would certainly make a valuable contribution, but - as the data shows - some of these Airbnb properties are large with five or more bedrooms, entirely unsuitable for most modern household sizes.

In addition, many are in areas of high demand in our main cities where rents are at a premium anyway.

It's highly likely that the State-imposed limits on rent subsidy would not cover the cost of securing these homes, and if a local authority were to suggest purchasing them for council housing, the price to be paid would probably be criticised and represent poor value for public money.

That's not to say that unfettered growth of the sector is a good thing. Clearly, the focus should be on providing good quality, affordable accommodation to those living in a city and not being solely concerned with a tourist market.

The Airbnb regulations should have been introduced at least a year ago, but better late than never. The problem is the State has largely ignored this problem until relatively recently. That's not the fault of property owners engaged in short-term lettings.

Irish Independent