Alan Kelly denies rent reform package ready by budget

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has denied he is responsible for rent hikes hitting tenants or that a package of reforms in the rental sector was ready before the Budget.

Mr Kelly hit out at reports that his Cabinet colleagues were ready to agree a package of reforms in the rental sector before the budget and instead said there were “cowards” now anonymously briefing against him.

Speaking in Kildare, the deputy Labour leader said that there would be further talks this week about rent control, an issue which is dividing the Fine Gael- Labour coalition.

“It [the cause of rent hikes] is nothing to do with Alan Kelly, that is just lazy commentary. There was no package put together. I didn’t get any package put towards me ,” said Mr Kelly.

The minister wants rents frozen for several years, following recent increases, and strict mortgage deposit rules introduced by the Central Bank. However, no package was announced in the budget and Finance Minister Michael Noonan is strongly against interfering with property investors.

Alan Kelly denies rent reform package ready by budget

Mr Kelly defended his hopes for rent reform, saying: “Alan Kelly on his own cannot solve this issue. It’s very simple. I cannot solve this issue without co-operation across a whole lot of other departments. I take no notice of anonymous commentary. If people are cowardly and don’t want to put their names to stuff, that’s their own business. But I don’t get worried about anonymous press office briefings.”

Landlords and property owners have threatened to withdraw co-operation with social housing tenants if rents are frozen. The Irish Property Owners Association also say rent certainty would be “unconstitutional”, according to a previous Supreme Court ruling.

Tensions in Government over the issue are now at an all-time high.

Focus Ireland is warning that in-fighting in the Government must be stopped as another 200 people will become homeless by Christmas due to the housing shortage.

The Cabinet is expected to informally discuss the concern over high rents and the housing shortage at its weekly meeting today.

A spokesman for Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “The Government understand the urgency of the problem. There is no quick solution. We will come forward with a package of measures.”

Elsewhere, Labour leader Joan Burton backed her deputy party leader.

“Alan Kelly is an incredibly hard-working minister, he has been given a very, very large budget, I think the biggest budget of any minister of the environment in the history of the State, to actually get the houses built, so that is priority number one.

“We have a number of issues around how we regulate the whole rental market. What I expect is to see soon a very detailed list from local authorities of when the building will commence.”

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