Housing (Temporary Provisions regarding Short-term Lettings) Bill 2020: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to temporarily suspend the provision of short-term lettings in certain cases, with the objective of increasing the number of dwellings available for rent; and to provide for related matters.

We do not get too much speaking time here and I ask that maybe we could have the full attention of the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers. I know that people need to be in contact and I know what it is like with everyone on their phones all the time. If we could just get a couple of minutes that would be great.

This Bill is about housing. Everybody knows that housing and the crisis in housing has receded in the attention of the Government and the media at the moment only because of the Covid crisis. It has not receded in real terms in people's lives whatsoever. That crisis is still phenomenally strong and difficult for many families in the State.

The Housing (Temporary Provisions regarding Short-term Lettings) Bill that we bring forward today seeks to address some of the difficulties in that sector. Housing and apartment prices have radically increased and rents have skyrocketed in the State over recent years. Many families are in major difficulty.

We have this crazy situation in Ireland and everybody must understand that it is a dysfunctional situation. It is an upside-down situation that tourists stay in people's homes and people who are homeless are staying in hotels. There is no way one can manage to turn that idea and those facts around to make it sound plausible or sensible. It is absolutely wrong and has massive repercussions for people's lives, especially on those families and children who grew up in these hotels. It negatively affects their nutrition, it negatively affects their education and their ability to socialise, and it negatively affects their development and growth. It needs to be massively tackled.

In March 2020 something very interesting happened. In March and April there was a significant increase in the number of rentals across the State. The number of homes that became available to rent in the State radically increased in just those couple of months. In Dublin there was a particular spike in the number of rental accommodation that became available. The rise in these properties is understood to be a result of a crash within the tourism sector. Due to Covid-19 the tap of tourists coming into Dublin and other urban areas was literally switched off and these short-term rentals needed, all of a sudden, to find a long-term rent space. Daft.ie became flush with pictures of homes that were dressed in pretty towels and other accoutrements for the short-term let sector, but which were now in the long-term let sector. That equated to a jump of 900 homes available to rent in just a couple of months, and rent actually fell during that period due to the increase of supply within the market.

Last year the Fine Gael Government was forced to introduce legislation, due to the pressure that came upon it, to tackle the crazy situation where tourists are in homes and people who are homeless are in hotels. There was a massive outcry and the Government decided it would tackle it. It is clear, however, from the facts and especially from the spike in April and March this year that many of those short-term lets remained in the short-term let sector, either ignoring the Government legislation or finding loopholes where they could get away from adhering to the spirit of that legislation. I did some work three months ago and found that the number of homes for rent on Airbnb across Dublin was enough to house all the people who are homeless in the capital city. The Airbnb capacity equated to the capacity necessary to house all the homeless within the capital, which includes the thousands of people currently living in hotels and hubs. This is an astounding mismatch of those resources.

Rental income from an Airbnb home can be as high as €250,000 per annum, which is an incredible figure, and there is no doubt that this type of financial energy is pushing up rents across the sector. My research showed that in Dublin only 19 people had applied for planning permission for the new short-term letting legislation and only one was granted. I believe it was on Grafton Street. Those figures are replicated across towns and cities in the State. It is clear that in the main the legislation is being ignored. The Aontú Bill simply seeks that for a three-year period a sunset clause provides that Airbnb short-term lets would be illegal in urban areas of more than 10,000 people. The legislation would shut off any ability to seek a loophole or a person's ability to ignore the legislation while advertising on Daft.ie and other such websites. I ask the Government and the other parties to support the Aontú Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.