Environment Minister Alan Kelly has insisted he still has “100% support” from his party over his rent certainty plans, despite claims he is becoming increasingly isolated in his battle to implement the popular policy.
The Labour TD denied he has lost the backing of coalition colleagues for the initiative, which would see rent prices linked to the consumer price index for a number of years in order to quell surging price hikes, as he launched 500 modular houses for homeless families yesterday.
Speaking to reporters 24 hours after a spokesperson for Tánaiste Joan Burton declined to refer to the long-stated potential policy as a “red line” issue for the party instead saying it “could be an option”, Mr Kelly remained defiant on its future.
The Environment Minister, who has been locked in intense talks with Finance Minister Michael Noonan for weeks over the plan, which Fine Gael is strongly opposed to as it may negatively damage the rental market — said he still has “100% support from the [Labour] party, every single person” and bluntly said “that’s your opinion” when Fine Gael’s opposition was raised.
Despite the prospect that rent certainty may fail to form a part of future government policy, the Labour TD said “I don’t do plan As or Bs”, when asked what other options to address the homelessness crisis are available.
He brushed off concerns the “mood music” from private conversations with Fine Gael and Labour officials has strongly hinted the rent certainty policy will have to be watered down at best, saying “I listen to a lot of mood music all the time”, and stressed “discussions are going on all the time”, with no resolution yet found.
On Monday evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted “seeming is not happening” when asked by reporters at his general election selection convention in Claremorris, Co Mayo, about the “seeming” stand-off between Mr Kelly and Mr Noonan.
Mr Noonan also stressed he is continuing to work with his ministerial colleague on how to address the housing crisis during a mid-west jobs plan announcement on the same day — but again stressed the Fine Gael position that “supply” issues, not rent prices, are at the heart of the problem.
Mr Kelly was speaking yesterday at the launch of 500 modular housing units for homeless families, 22 of which are expected to be in place by December with a further 128 expected to undergo “a fast-tracked procurement”.
He described the moves as a “temporary measure while supply is coming on stream” in order to address an ongoing homelessness crisis he says is the most serious issue during his time in charge.
However, while the move was welcomed by Focus Ireland, which opened its building in Dublin’s Temple Bar to him to launch the plan, Fianna Fáil environment spokesperson Barry Cowen questioned whether anything will be in place by Christmas.
“Since the day these things went on show, back in December, we still have been given no definitive indication from the minister or Government as to what existing planning legislation allows them to be fast tracked,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved