The Taoiseach has dismissed opposition calls to introduce a rent freeze despite renters paying significantly higher amounts than at the height of the boom. Both Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein and Labour have called on the Government to enforce a freeze after the latest Daft.ie report revealed rental costs are now €400 more than they were during the Celtic Tiger.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Government of "complacency" when it comes to tackling the housing crisis and said the rental report had made for "very serious and depressing" reading. Pointing to the fact that in Cork the average rent is now €1,372 showing he said rent controls are simply not working.
"All of this should act as a catalyst for a fundamental change in housing policy," Mr Martin said. "In particular, younger people have been failed badly by current policies. A young person today is finding it impossible to pay these rents. Young couples in particular are finding it impossible to save deposits while paying exorbitant rents in tandem with credit constraints.
"It is now time for the Government to consider imposing a rent freeze, given the exorbitant levels of rent people are facing," he told the Dáil.
Sinn Féin's Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire also called for a rent freeze highlighting the fact that average rents have risen for the 14th quarter in a row and are now at €2,000 in Dublin.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
Mr Varadkar acknowledged that rents are high relative to incomes which is a "real problem" and have become unaffordable for many people. However, ruling out a rent freeze he said: "The solution in the Government’s view is twofold, namely, rent controls and an increase in housing supply.
"Rent controls, which are now in place, mean that for any existing tenancy, rent cannot increase in any given year by more than 4%."
Raising constitutional issues, the Taosieach expressed "real concern" around the unintended consequences of a rent freeze. Hitting out at the opposition leader, Mr Varadkar said Fianna Fáil was responsible for many of the policies that gave rise to the housing crisis.
"Deputy Martin likes to pretend that he was only elected to the Dáil in 2011 or 2017 but he was part of the Government that was in power for almost all of that period or a large part of it," the Taoiseach said.
He also took aim at Sinn Fein, claiming the party had recently tried to stop plans for around 800 homes close to Dublin city centre. Labour housing spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan said it is time for a rent freeze to be introduced to give renters a much-needed break.
“After more than three years, it is clear that this Government has failed to get the rental crisis under control," she said.