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Varadkar says Ireland’s ‘very high’ rents are ‘out of kilter’ with similar countries

It came after Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty accused the government of ignoring proposals that would “put money back into people’s pockets.”

Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty clashed in the Dáil this afternoon.
Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty clashed in the Dáil this afternoon.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said that the cost of renting accommodation in Ireland is “out of kilter and disproportionate” compared with peer countries.

Speaking in the Dáil today, the Fine Gael leader said we would “absolutely acknowledge” that the “very high” price of renting in Ireland is a “very important issue”.

The comments came in response to Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, who accused the government of ignoring proposals that would “put money back into people’s pockets.”

In advance of the announcement of Budget 2023 next week, Doherty argued that the government should consider introducing a tax credit for renters that would refund them one month’s rent.

The Donegal TD added that the proposal should be accompanied by a ban on rent increases to avoid the refund being “pocketed by landlords through further rent hikes.”

“Tánaiste, renters are being fleeced. Runaway rents need to stop, renters can be supported and runaway rents can be tackled. But the choice is yours. It is a choice of your government. The budget is just days away,” Doherty said.

After acknowledging high rental costs, Varadkar said there are a number of solutions that will help tackle the housing crisis.

The Dublin West TD highlighted efforts to increase the amount of social housing as the most significant policy along with the government’s cost rental and Help to Buy schemes and rent pressure zones.

“We’re probably going to break records in terms of the number of new social houses provided in Ireland this year, getting up to the kind of figures we haven’t seen since the 1970s, if not before,” the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said.

“Social housing benefits everyone. It takes people off the housing list and also frees up private accommodation for other people to rent and other people to buy, thus exerting downward pressure on rents and property prices. And that’s why we’re investing so much in new social housing and will continue to do so in the years ahead,” Varadkar added.

Responding to Varadkar’s rebuttal, Doherty said the government was going to fail to meet its social housing and cost rental targets. “These are all low targets that are way inadequate to what’s needed,” he said.

“How far does rent have to go before you start to realise, actually, your policies are actually contributing to this problem in the first instance?” he asked.

Doherty urged the government to back Sinn Féin’s policies of a refundable tax credit for renters and a ban on rent increases.

The Tánaiste said that was a matter for budget day and added that “bigger trends” including demographics and the cost of building materials are contributing to rising house prices.

“North of the border, where your party has been in office now for a very long time, house prices have also gone up.

“They’ve gone up by 20% in two years, and rents are rising as well. And that’s a place where there’s a Sinn Féin housing minister and a Sinn Féin finance minister,” Varadkar said.

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Céimin Burke

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