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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Oct 2003

Vol. 572 No. 4

Residential Tenancies Bill 2003: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be read a Second Time."

I welcome this long overdue development in housing legislation. My party has called for the Government to act in light of the changes in the housing market. This is groundbreaking legislation, as it provides that people who have been renting for six months without causing problems have the right to a five year lease and rent can only be increased once a year. There must be greater security of tenure for tenants because thousands more people have entered the private rented sector.

The need for reform of this sector has long been recognised. The Bill has been published against a background where the percentage of housing stock available for rent has increased from 8% to 13%. This increase is all the more notable because the total number of units has soared.

The housing market is completely different from that which my party left in 1997. At that time students could find accommodation relatively easily and could hope that they would own a property one day. However, the rented sector is now a more realistic option because of exorbitant increases in house prices. Home ownership, still the goal of many, may have to be put off by them for many years. The facts are startling. The first-time buyer's grant has been abolished, as a result of which the little respite offered to young people to help to put a roof over their heads has been taken away. Fine Gael objected to its abolition and it was a major disappointment as young people sometimes used it to purchase a fitted kitchen or a suite of furniture. There has been much debate about encouraging people regarding home ownership and this grant was an important factor. I was extremely disappointed, given the significant increase in VAT which has impacted significantly on the price of a house.

The average price of a new home is €225,000, which is 25% higher than in the US, and this represents an unbelievable increase of 180% since 1996. A total of 12,000 people contacted Threshold during the period the Commission on the Private Rented Sector held its meetings. Most of them highlighted frequent and substantial rent increases. Health boards pay rent supplement to 100,000 people. Tenants have poor security of tenure while many landlords feel policy is framed on the basis of poor information.

Almost 500 people are on the housing waiting list of Sligo Corporation while a similar number is on the Sligo County Council waiting list. Almost 1,000 people are following the necessary procedures but many of them will have years to wait. That is disappointing and that is the reason the legislation is necessary. Rented accommodation will be a factor for the future.

People who have no income are in the greatest need of housing. The housing statistics bulletin states 5,581 people are homeless.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.