Finance Minister Michael Noonan has confirmed that senior civil servants are working on proposals to regulate the house-rental sector and which will be considered by the cabinet before the budget.
Housing issues are emerging as very big problems, he said.
“The big problem of success that’s on the horizon now as the result of all the new people getting jobs, especially in the cities, is housing, whether it is rental or purchase of housing. This is emerging as a very big problem,” he said.
“There is a sub-committee of cabinet under Minister Alan Kelly’s department which is looking at a series of issues now, in advance of the budget: the issue of rent and how one marries rent with house purchase and where the issues interlock and interchange. But there are no decisions taken yet.
“Various ideas are being kicked around and there are various solid proposals coming from the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Finance has put up some proposals as well,” he said.
He said the matter of housing is still being examined at senior civil servant level, with proposals due to be discussed shortly at ministerial level.
On the exchequer returns due tomorrow he said there was nothing to suggest they would be anything other than favourable, and he expected them to remain on the €1.2bn to €1.5bn target.
He said: “You are looking at big amounts of money each month and it comes down to the last day on what revenue collect, whether you are up one €100m or down €100m.
“I’ll have the quarterly figures on Wednesday and Brendan Howlin and I will have a press conference on Friday where we will announce and comment on them. But all the anecdotal evidence would suggest the trend will continue.
“The figures will not have a particular affect on the budget. The budget is based on the tax which we expect to collect in 2016, not the tax we have collected in 2015. But it does make a difference if there are overruns in any departments.
“We will be able to fund over-runs; for example in health we will be able to fund them out of the tax that comes in, rather than borrow to do so. So it’s a 2015 issue. Of course, it gives us confidence that if our tax is growing well ahead of schedule in 2015, it will continue do so.
“We have already sent our forecast to the Irish Fiscal Council, so it won’t alter the parameters of the budget that have already been announced,” he said.
Asked if he was surprised at weekend comments by President Michael D Higgins on the housing crisis, Mr Noonan said: “I think the President is an amazingly good president. He is following a sequence of very good presidents. We are fortunate to have him. There’s not much point in being a president unless you feel free to comment on key issues of the day. That’s what he did.”
Meanwhile, the Residential Landlords Association has already warned the Government that any likely cap on rent rises, in particular, would backfire as it was unconstitutional.
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