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Extending rent freeze might have to be considered, says Taoiseach

He said a decision on any extension to the emergency measures will be made in a few weeks time.

Image: Leon Farrell

EXTENDING THE RENT freeze and the temporary ban on evictions might have to be considered, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. 

Speaking to reporters at the HSE Dublin Covid-19 response hub in Granegorman today, Varakar said “no decision” on whether to extend the emergency measures has been made at this stage.

He said a lot of things were put in place for a 12-week period, such as welfare supports, rent caps and a ban on evictions. 

The Taoiseach said this was “done on the anticipation that this pandemic would last for less than 12 weeks”. 

“If it goes on for longer we will have to consider extending a lot of those different temporary actions,” he said, adding that it is not a decision that will be made now. 

He said a decision on any extensions will be made in a few weeks time. 

Initially, the rent freeze was introduced for a period of three months, but the government warned at the time that it may be extended if deemed necessary.

Tens of thousands people have lost their jobs as a result of the crisis, with a large number of businesses closing temporarily or permanently.

Under the new rules, landlords cannot impose a rent increase on their tenants during the crisis, and if a person has received a notice request to leave the apartment or home they are renting that process will now be suspended. 

Adverts for homes available to rent in Dublin city centre has increased by 75% in the last 12 months, according to data published by property website Daft.ie.

The company’s latest report showed how the number of properties available to rent surged since the lockdown was first announced.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said today that thousands of Airbnb properties should be kept for the rental sector and not returned to the tourism market. 

He said all short-term rental platforms will have to be regulated, telling RTÉ:

“We need to take the next step and regulate online platforms.”

This should be a priority of the next government, he said. 

Murphy previously told an Oireachtas committee that regulating platforms such as Airbnb is ultimately a matter for Tourism Minister Shane Ross and his department.

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Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin sided with the Independent Alliance minister at the time, stating that regulating the platforms to ensure compliance is a matter for Murphy.

Lifting restrictions

Earlier today, Varadkar also commented on the plan to lift the restrictions and what the roadmap might look like. 

While he would not be drawn on how many phases there might be, the Taoiseach said “it is fair to say one of the last things to return to normal” will be mass gatherings due to the difficulties with social distancing.

On whether Micheál Martin will get to take over as Taoiseach under a new government, or whether there is room for a third leader to take up the role for a period of time under a coalition government, Varadkar said any third or fourth party that joins with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have an equal say on government formation. 

Whether Green Party leader Eamon Ryan might get a stint of becoming Taoiseach, Varadkar said “that is absolutely up to him to speak about” stating that the ball is now in the court of the smaller parties. 

He said he would listen to any proposal put forward by the parties.

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