Simon Coveney hits back at Fianna Fáil criticism over handling of rent crisis

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has rebuffed criticisms from Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen about the sharp rises in rent prices.

Mr Cowen was scathing in his analysis of Mr Coveney’s performance as minister in terms of the housing crisis, claiming the Government has compulsory purchase powers as its disposal which should be “used extensively” and immediately.

Mr Coveney hit back by saying Mr Cowen does not seem to understand how matters like this get sorted.

“I am not sure if Barry is actually following what is going on here,” said Mr Coveney, adding that he has a detailed strategy to deal with vacant homes and has no time for the “seat-of-our-pants strategy” being advocated by others.

Speaking to Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ radio, Mr Coveney accepted not enough was being done, but said it is important to give people hope that things are improving.

Mr Cowen said such powers are there to address social need and they have the potential to get results.

He said a programme should be initiated by Mr Coveney and the Department of Housing where “the local authorities should have been instructed to start proceedings to compulsorily purchase those properties to bring them into use”.

He said: “Where it cannot be done, it will crystallise in that process.”

Mr Cowen said he was referring to the “vacant units, the vacant, dilapidated buildings in many villages and towns and cities throughout the country where people are looking to see those come into use”.

He said this offers an opportunity to repopulate towns and villages and address the housing crisis.

Mr Cowen said he is looking forward to next month’s review of the Government’s initiative to deal with rent pressure zones.

“And I say to Minister Coveney and I say to Fine Gael now that they have at their disposal compulsory purchase powers, which are there in order to address social need. I say to them use them.

“Use them extensively and use them immediately. They have the potential to get results and they will crystallise the issues that is holding this property back.”

Mr Coveney said he will set regulatory limits on people using Airbnb to lease out properties which are not their homes.

Mr Coveney said he has met with the company, which handles the renting out of properties for primarily leisure use, and will force its hand if it fails to co-operate.

“I have made it very clear to Airbnb that if we don’t get a satisfactory memorandum of understanding with them then we will introduce regulations,” he said.

Mr Coveney made it clear that the use of properties which are not the primary home for extended periods is not acceptable in the middle of a housing crisis.

“What we won’t allow is Airbnb to essentially be providing short-term rental accommodation whereby properties are not people’s homes are being used,” he said.

When pressed on whether such limits would be in the region of a month a year, Mr Coveney said he would be guided by the experts in his department.

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