Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

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

 

7:05 pm

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)

I thank the Minister of State. I first must declare an interest in terms of the provision of student accommodation. We have to make sure that we are talking in a like-minded manner about this issue. With regard to purpose-built student accommodation, there should be no problem in the world with the people who own those properties and especially if they are managed and if they are very near the colleges. In many instances, we are talking about purpose-built student accommodation. Those students should only be asked to engage in a lease for the academic year. As the Minister of State will be aware, during the period those properties are idle they are rented again to foreign students. Whether it is in Cork, Galway, Limerick or any of the bigger places, this is what happens with that accommodation. Of course there is the question of people with private houses and what they will do with them for the remainder of the time if they rent them out for the academic year. Perhaps for some reason some students might actually want to stay where their accommodation was. It is only if they want to. Absolutely no parent or no student should be forced to sign up to something or to a property they do not want. That should not happen. It should be their own free will and their own free choice. They should have the security of knowing that when they go back in September the accommodation would be there for them again.

We have a very large problem in that we do not have enough supply at the moment. The reason the prices are going up is because the actual amount of available accommodation is so small. Every day of the week at a certain period of the year when parents are sourcing student accommodation I and the people working in my office are literally inundated with queries about student accommodation. We try to help families to source it in the different areas, be it in Cork, Tralee or Limerick. County Kerry is affected of course, but we have an additional problem with transport and distance from home. Take, for instance, somebody attending college in Cork. The county bounds are an awful long way from Portmagee. It is an awful long way from anywhere on the Iveragh Peninsula. It is a long way from any place on the Beara Peninsula, back towards Tuosist, Lauragh and Ardea. Those people have an awful long way to travel. If they want to come home at the weekends it is a much bigger expense on them than on other people because of where they live. Whether they are from Cahirsiveen, Killorglin or Glencar, those students are as perfectly entitled to a good education as if they were from Blackrock.

There is no difference between Ballinskelligs and Blackrock. When it comes to the way the Government is handling this whole issue, I firmly believe that many politicians account for much of the cause of the exodus of people from wanting to provide accommodation. It is true that we see local authorities that will not fix a latch in the house of a local authority tenant. At the same time, they will have no problem putting a person out of the private accommodation business by giving them such a doing. We all want standards and want things to be right in properties. If there is one law for local authority standards, however, that should be the same as the standard for private rented accommodation. The Government and the local authorities do not seem to get or understand this point. Year-on-year, those who have been involved in the rental market are getting out of it. That is causing us an awful lot of trouble now.

To be honest, the Minister's Government has been an awful lot to the forefront in being the cause of that problem by not trying to do things to incentivise people involved in the private rental sector, whether for student accommodation or other private rented accommodation, and ensure they stay at the business. I say this because if they do not provide accommodation, you would not want to be relying on the Government to do so. The Minister knows this. I am not blaming this Government. I am saying that this Government and successive governments have not done enough to ensure there is enough suitable student accommodation or private rental accommodation. I always say the crisis is bad, but, my goodness, it is getting really bad now. Every time I am at clinics, including last night, what was coming up was accommodation, accommodation and accommodation. We are simply just not doing enough to ensure we have the supply. If we had enough supply, that would help in reducing the ever-increasing rents. I do not want to eat into other people's time.

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