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Varadkar says Ireland's rents are 'unacceptably high' and compare unfavorably against most EU cities

Varadkar has said he wants the Housing for All plan implemented more quickly.

RENTS IN IRELAND are “unacceptably high”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said in the Dáil today, amid questioning by opposition TDs over his recent that young people emigrating are wrong to think they will get a better deal on housing abroad.

Over the weekend, it was reported that Varadkar warned the large numbers of younger people considering emigrating from Ireland that “the grass looks greener” but they “are not going to find rents are lower in New York”.

“When people actually get into the reality of going abroad, if you are going to another busy city or successful country, you will see a lot of the same problems,” he said on Sunday.

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said it would appear from the Tánaiste’s comments you’re not aware of how serious the housing disaster is affecting people.

“Are you not aware that Dublin is the most expensive capital city in the European Union in which to rent according to the OECD and Eurostat. Since this government has taken office rents have reached record levels, house prices reach record levels, the number of people living in emergency accommodation or homeless people has reached record levels,” he said.

“Do you accept that in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Berlin or any other European capital city, renting is more affordable than it is in Dublin,” O’Callaghan asked the Tánaiste.

“I’m very aware that rents are extremely high across Ireland, not just in Dublin, and that we compare unfavorably with most other European capital cities, perhaps all, I’m not sure about London, which is still part of Europe but let’s not go there. We all agree that rents in Ireland and Dublin are extremely high, they’re unacceptably high,” conceded Varadkar.

The Government is taking action by introducing the rent credit which kicks in a few weeks time, which give €1,000 “back into the pockets of the average single renter” and €2,000 for a couple, said Varadkar.

Scaling up the cost-rental model is also being done, he said. “We need to see a lot more of that.”

He maintained that the rent pressure zones are working, highlighting that in the recent report, people in existing tenancies saw their rents increase by 2.5%.

Their latest report found that market rents have jumped by 14.1% in the third quarter of 2022, compared with the same period last year.

This is the highest year-on-year price hike since Daft began its reports in 2006 and is higher than the previous record of 12.6% recorded last quarter.

The average market rent during the Q3 was €1,688 per month, which is a 4.3% rise compared to Q2.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said: “You really don’t know what you are talking about”. Rents in Ireland are 88% higher than the EU average, she told the Tánaiste.

Young people were “angered” and “stunned” what she called Varadkar’s “ill-informed” remarks.

Varadkar said his comments over the weekend have been represented in a way he didn’t intend them to, stating that he only referred to rents in two cities, Sydney and New York.

“I believe Ireland is a great country in which to live. And that’s not just my opinion. The United Nations which assesses these things objectively, puts Ireland in the top 10 countries in the world in which to live out of 200 countries in the world,” he said. 

People travel abroad for many different reasons, he said.

Defending the Government, Varadkar said he was heartened by some of the recent stats when it comes to home purchases and mortgage approvals.

“Although we have a long way to go, in the last 12 months alone, 16,000 individuals and young couples have bought their first home and that’s the highest in 15 years, he said. He added that in the last month over 2,000 young people, individuals, couples got mortgage approval.

“So those are the some of the metrics that are at least going in the right direction. Although by no means far enough or fast enough, in my view,” he said.

Yesterday, when asked by The Journal, if he would like to tweak the Housing for All plan when he becomes Taoiseach next month, Varadkar said he wants to see the policy implemented faster to stem the “social disaster” in housing.

Acknowledging that the homelessness figures are likely to rise again on Friday when the Department of Housing releases its monthly figures, he said he was open to new ideas:

“I have absolutely no doubt that the Minister for Housing and the Department of Housing are seized upon every day by the need to take action in relation to housing, to pull out all the stops in relation to housing. But other Government departments need to do their bit too and that’s, I think, the role of the Department of Taoiseach to drive that forward.

“Housing is an emergency, it is a crisis, it is a social disaster. But just calling it those things doesn’t build any houses and the role of us in Government is to make sure the plans that we have are implemented and accelerated.”

Speaking in an interview with The Journal a number of months ago, Varadkar said he believed housing needed another look, calling it a breach in the social contract.

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