Alan Kelly: Rent policy still part of plan for housing

Environment Minister Alan Kelly insists his rent certainty scheme remains “very much” part of plans to address the housing crisis, despite ongoing claims his own party is losing faith in the proposal.

Responding to suggestions yesterday that Labour ministers have joined with Fine Gael in accepting the plan to link rent prices to the consumer price index will not happen, a spokesperson for the minister said that Mr Kelly still believes the policy is central to discussions.

While declining to give a “cast iron” guarantee the initiative will be included in any housing plan, the spokesperson said it remains “very much” part of considerations and denied reports that it has been rejected by the Department of Finance.

Addressing growing concerns that Labour is stepping back from the proposal, underlined by the failure last week of Tánaiste Joan Burton’s spokesperson to describe the plan as a ‘red line’ issue, the spokesperson said “two recent parliamentary party meetings” show rent certainty continues to have “unanimous” Labour backing.

He said rent certainty remains key to “resolving family homelessness” and that “a lot of versions” of the measure are being discussed with the department, which he repeated will finalise its future housing strategy before Christmas.

The minister also moved to dismiss claims the ongoing rent certainty delay is allowing landlords to hike rents in the expectation future prices may be capped, saying that independent research from the start of this year shows a 10%-15% increase was predicted even before the matter was discussed.

The plan was due to be announced in Budget 2016.

However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan effectively blocked the proposal as it may damage the market and see landlords leave the sector — issues Fine Gael, which has been lobbied by landlord and property groups, has publicly and privately warned.

MichaelNoonan
MichaelNoonan

It is understood a growing number of Labour ministers are now backing away from the initiative, and believe a deal with Fine Gael focussed on extending the eviction notice period from 28 days to three months in the short-term alongside tax incentives for landlords to stay in the market and increased housing supply in the long term are more effective options.

The issue is expected to be raised again at Cabinet tomorrow, alongside the potential establishment of a second special criminal court to address alleged paramilitary activity and linked crime and plans to sign off on a new DNA database to track sex offenders in this country — an issue first flagged on budget day.

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