Seanad debates

Friday, 4 June 2021

Affordable Housing Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)


9:30 am

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 32, line 6, to delete “30 years” and substitute “40 years”.

Clearly, we are now on Part 3 of the Bill that deals with cost rental dwelling and for us this is a crucial. With the national emergency that we are seeing it is not just that we do not have enough homes being built. That is clearly a huge issue. What is also a huge issue is the lack of security of tenure and the lack of availability of affordable rents across the country but particularly in Dublin city. we see very high levels of rent currently being set, particularly in my own area of Dublin Bay South. What we are also seeing, unfortunately, is the dominance of institutional investors, so-called cuckoo funds and vulture funds artificially maintaining market rents at a high level by keeping apartments empty. I have talked before about seeing apartments, in big apartment complexes built in different areas around Dublin Bay South, lying furnished but empty with plastic sheeting still on the mattresses, which is the image that is most durable for me, while people cannot afford to move into those apartments because the rents are set so high. That is the difficulty where we have this dominance of institutional investors in that we do not see affordability of rental.

We are very anxious to see measures brought forward to increase the affordability of rents and ensure the security of tenure for tenants. In other words, to ensure the protection of tenants' rights. That is part of the difficulty for so many people, particularly my students who may have now graduated and are in good jobs yet they simply cannot afford to buy homes. Furthermore, they are not in secure rental accommodation. For so many people, they feel such a need to buy a home because they cannot feel secure in rental accommodation. What would take a lot of pressure off housing more generally is if we could ensure better protection for tenants so people could see themselves in longer leases, they could know that they have greater security in their homes and, therefore, do not feel this urgent pressure to move out and buy a home.

For a long time the system was skewed where renting was only ever seen as very short term and almost a haphazard thing. We did not have a tradition in Ireland and, indeed, in Dublin of long leases, secure tenancies, fixed rentals and of the Government setting caps and affordable rents. Increasingly, we have seen a move towards that in the shape of rent pressure zones and so on but we need to see more of that in this Bill. That is why we have put forward a series of amendments to Part 3.

Senator Moynihan drafted amendment No. 58. However, Senator Warfield has tabled a very similar amendment No. 59. On consideration, we would be happy to support amendment No. 59 in preference. We ask the Minister of State to consider both amendments, if necessary, between now and Report Stage. Indeed, we will hear his response today. I hope that it might be possible to achieve something that goes towards meeting our concerns with the current provisions in section 30 and for the Government to come to us with something that deals with the issues that we have raised in amendments Nos. 58 and 59. We are happy to withdraw amendment No. 58 in the interest of pressing amendment No. 59. Senator Warfield can speak to his amendment but both of these amendments seek to achieve the same thing.


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