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Those paying soaring rents will have their say at the ballot box

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin was accused by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald of “lacking any credibility” after it emerged that only eight new affordable homes will be built in 2021. Photo: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was accused by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald of “lacking any credibility” after it emerged that only eight new affordable homes will be built in 2021. Photo: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was accused by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald of “lacking any credibility” after it emerged that only eight new affordable homes will be built in 2021. Photo: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

Social theorist Thomas Sowell argued there was no more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting them in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

When there is only reward for flouting the rules, with minimal risk of penalty or punishment, should we really be so shocked when they are either ignored or trampled upon?

And so, once again, we have seen rents that are supposed to be controlled spiralling way beyond decent limits.

Even the sector’s regulator, the Residential Tenancies Board, has had to admit to an “unacceptable level of non-compliance by landlords”.

It comes on the back of reports showing how rents grew by 7pc nationally over the year.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien acknowledged this points to a “concerning level of non-compliance” with rent rules.

“Crackdowns” and “get-tough policies” are being spoken of, but in terms of meaningful intervention on behalf of those paying cripplingly high rents, there is no sign of positive change.

It is clear that if landlords can breach rent caps with impunity, they will continue to do so.

The housing emergency will, almost certainly, decide the next election. The Government’s fate hangs on convincing voters it is doing all it can to turn things around.

It was no less a person than Albert Einstein who once warned: “Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.”

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There has been much comforting talk about “building back better” after the cataclysm of the pandemic.

Surely such a conversation must include allowing people to feel some way secure in their tenancy. 

We saw earlier in the week how the shortage has led to homes rising in value by an average of 9pc nationwide this year.

In the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Taoiseach Micheál Martin of “lacking any credibility” on the delivery of housing after it emerged that only eight new affordable homes will be built this year.

She said the figure could not be denied as it had come in a parliamentary reply from the minister, Mr O’Brien.

But Mr Martin, in turn, accused her of “hypocrisy”, saying the Government was very focused on delivering affordable homes.

In heated exchanges, he claimed the Sinn Féin leader was exploiting the housing crisis for political gain.

No matter how hot under the collar politicians become, it will be nothing in comparison with the resentment and frustration felt by those who fear they can no longer buy or rent a home.

The Government claims it is doing all it reasonably can, but the market does not lie.

When house prices and rents soar ever higher each year, the credibility gap widens. That can only damage public confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver.


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