Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2024: Second Stage

 

5:35 pm

Photo of Thomas GouldThomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)

I acknowledge that this Bill has been brought forward quickly and in a constructive manner. We have worked with the Government to ensure that what is proposed in the Bill will happen as swiftly as possible in order to try to make sure students are not forced into these leases in September. We need to make sure that the President will be in a position to sign the Bill into law as soon as possible. I commend my colleague Deputy Mairéad Farrell on the tireless work she has done in highlighting this issue and on how instrumental she has been in this legislation being brought forward.

It is clear, however, that this has only become an issue because successive Governments have opened their arms, welcomed vulture funds into the State and let them take control of areas of the housing market. I looked at figures for Cork that Deputy Mairéad Farrell provided. For a single-occupancy room in the Lee Point complex, these funds are charging €1,000 per month. They are taking in well over €6 million euro for one apartment block. Another vulture fund is making €3.7 million at a minimum for another apartment block in Cork, Nido Broga House. There are difficulties with applying law retrospectively, but I checked today and two types of rooms in the Lee Point complex are sold out. That means students have already signed 51-week leases and will be stuck paying for accommodation for months for which they do not need it. This Bill will save students in Cork thousands of euro. It will mean they are not forced to pay rent in the summer months when they do not need accommodation. In the Lee Point apartments, this is equivalent to a saving of €3,000 per year.

We now need to see more done to tackle the vulture funds that are running riot in our communities and making huge profits. In my constituency, Cork North-Central, a vulture fund is looking to convert ground floor commercial units in Blackpool that were supposed to house a bank, crèche, gym, doctor's surgery, dentist and many more services. Instead, the units are now being turned into apartments. When planning permission was obtained, these services were supposed to be included, but now vulture funds are coming in. In these blocks, they are charging €1,800 per month for a one-bedroom property. There are vulture funds in Cork city charging €3,500 per month for three-bedroom apartments. The Minister may claim these vulture funds have an impact on housing and he would not be wrong. They are destroying communities, affecting young people's ability to access education and making the housing crisis worse.

This Bill is important and I welcome it. I do not dispute it will have a positive impact on students and save them large sums of money but the Minister should have moved on this months ago. Without real regulation of vulture funds, they will continue to cause havoc in our cities, towns and villages, to speculate and strip communities of services, to charge eye-watering, unaffordable rents and to rip off ordinary people. They will continue to let homes rot where they can make it profitable and they will continue to do all this without paying one cent in tax. How is this allowed? Vulture funds were brought into this country by Fine Gael but Fianna Fáil has let them run wild and here we are. We welcome this legislation but it needs to go much further. They are destroying our communities and preying on people's need for housing. Something needs to be done.

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