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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Vol. 1022 No. 5

Short-term Lettings Enforcement Bill 2022: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Peter Burke, for taking this debate. I also thank the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, who contacted me earlier today as a courtesy to let me know he was unable to be present. However, as the Bill relates to a planning matter, it falls within the Minister of State's portfolio, so the right man is here for the day.

As the Minister of State knows, in 2017, the Oireachtas committee on housing completed a report on the need to regulate short-term lettings. There was strong cross-party support for the introduction of a regulatory regime that would facilitate genuine peer-to-peer home sharing, particularly for people who wanted to let a room in their property for a number of weeks each year to supplement their income, support their mortgage payments, pay for school or college fees or even to pay for a holiday. The committee was strongly of the view that we needed robust regulation for commercial short-term lettings, those letting their property for more than 90 days or those letting second, third or fully commercial properties. That report received widespread public support and in 2019, the then Minister with responsibility for housing, Eoghan Murphy, introduced regulations that were broadly in line with the recommendations of the committee.

While we broadly welcomed the regulations when they were introduced, a number of us highlighted a weakness, namely, that while their broad outline was correct, enforcement of the regulations would be a challenge. The regime the then Minister introduced was over-reliant on the planning enforcement of local authorities, which is slow and cumbersome and ultimately requires legal action. For this reason, we believed an additional layer of enforcement would be required for estate agents and letting platforms. It was my strong view at the time, and remains so today, that if somebody engages in the commercial activity of advertising a short-term letting, for example, an estate agent or online platform such as Airbnb, and profits from those advertisements, there should be a penalty if they advertise properties that do not have the exemption required for the genuine short-term letters or the required planning permission.

It is important also to emphasise that the original regulations made a clear distinction. Short-term letting in rent pressure zones where there was a high demand for long-term lets would be discouraged, but beyond that, particularly in the more scenic parts of our tourist economy, it would be encouraged. Several years on, we know from the enforcement data that we were proved correct. The overwhelming majority of properties that are today listed, for example, on Airbnb, are illegal. They do not have planning permission. They do not have exemption certificates. Therefore, they are operating outside of the law, a law that had unanimous support across the House.

The Bill I am introducing today is a small, simple, but I think effective, tool to address that. Very simply, it will require any estate agent or short-term letting platform to require the host to give evidence that they have the exemption or the planning permission before they are allowed to be advertised. If any estate agent or online platform like Airbnb advertises properties and potentially profits from properties that do not have planning permission, they should be hit with a spot fine. I think the spot fine is the best way to do it, because the Minister could set a rate for a spot fine that would come in at or above the amount of money the platform would accrue if that property was let short term on a particular day. Spot fines could also be increased incrementally for serial offenders.

I wish to acknowledge the fact that in August 2021, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage did indicate he was working - or his hard-working, underpaid and undervalued officials in the planning section were working - on new regulations. He did not indicate at that stage that it may be a licensing regime by the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB. I would be interested to see if that is the case. I am sure that is probably not the direction of travel, and not the best one. I think enforcement is the key. Given that these companies, Airbnb in particular, are very large, wealthy global companies, the Oireachtas today should have a very clear message, namely, they should not be allowed to profit from, or facilitate, the advertising of properties that do not have requisite planning permission on the short-term letting market.

I wish to acknowledge the fact I understand the Government is not opposing the Bill. That is very welcome. My preference, of course, is that this Bill does not see the light of day. My preference is the Government accelerates its own changes, works collaboratively with us in opposition, and we get a speedy resolution on this. We did so with the USI student accommodation Bill both in this Dáil and in the previous Dáil. The commitment I give to the Government in exchange for its non-opposition to this Bill, if we can call it that, is if it works with us, we will assist it in speeding the passage of an appropriate and effective enforcement mechanism, crucially so that at this time, when the private rental sector is shrinking, we can ensure that properties should be in the long-term rental market are where they should be and not in an unregulated and illegal short-term letting market.

I thank my colleague, an Teachta Ó Broin, for bringing forward this Bill and, as I have done previously, for all of the work that he does in the area of housing. It is a fairly simple, straightforward Bill requiring estate agents and online platforms, such as Airbnb and Daft, to advertise only those properties that are compliant with planning law. It also allows for the issuing of spot fines to Airbnb and other providers who advertise non-compliant properties. The situation where tens of thousands of houses and apartments that are non-compliant with planning laws are being advertised for short-term letting is an absolute disgrace. I am sure the Minister of State will agree it would be a disgrace at any time, but it is a particular disgrace now with the situation people find themselves in and the crisis people are facing. The law is in place and companies such as Airbnb are facilitating this non-compliance.

The rental sector is in crisis. Renters need a break. It is time to get tough with these online platforms. Last week, I spoke to a 61-year-old woman who is living in her car in the Minister, Deputy O'Brien's constituency. If that is not going to set off some sort of flashing blue light emergency, I do not know what will. It is no way for people to live. We know there is a serious crisis there. As ever, Sinn Féin, as the lead party in opposition, is being constructive and offering solutions.

Research conducted last week by The Times Ireland edition shows that Airbnb rentals now outstrip long-term rental homes in every single county. In Balbriggan, there are 165 properties advertised on Airbnb and just three available for long-term rental on Daft. Likewise, in Swords, there are more than 1,000 properties advertised on Airbnb and 11 available for long-term rental. It is not a case of a person renting out a room in their house short term. It is a case of people seeking to let out whole houses and apartments commercially all year round, but only on a short-term basis. These laws are being broken and nothing is being done, because local authorities are not monitoring to enforce compliance with the regulations. We have to get real here. We must get rid of this practice whereby people not complying with planning law are allowed to cause tens of thousands of possible rental homes to be taken off the market. I am not in any way surprised Airbnb is facilitating this kind of abhorrent behaviour because it is the same company that allows the advertising of properties in illegal Israeli settlements in the illegally occupied Palestinian West Bank.

I thank my colleague, an Teachta Ó Broin, for bringing forward this Bill. There is a crisis in the private rental sector, with rents continuing to spiral out of control. I listened to Newstalk yesterday and heard how the residents of an estate in Tubbercurry, County Sligo, received a knock on their doors in recent days to tell them their rent is going up by 70%. Imagine being told you have to find an extra €150 a week for rent. It is extortion, plain and simple. There are 12 rental properties in County Sligo currently advertised on Daft, and 563 advertised on Airbnb. Every month, the number of properties available to rent gets smaller and smaller. Last week, there were 32 properties available to rent in County Kildare on daft.ie. This week, there are 24. Just one of these properties is available at a rental cost within the housing assistance, HAP, limits. Meanwhile, there are 295 Airbnb properties available. In the meantime, the cost of renting a home is spiralling out of control. Rents are now even higher than at the highest point of the Celtic tiger.

The Bill is very simple and will be a most useful tool in ensuring the law is complied with. It is not about penalising holiday rentals. It is about maximising homes for need, not greed. If there are to be short-term rentals, they must be regulated. It is not just about Airbnb. Some landlords have been using booking.com and other sites to avoid the scrutiny of Airbnb. If there are elected representatives engaging in short-term letting, they should declare a conflict of interest.

In recent months there has been an explosion in the number of single people and families with children presenting as homeless. Notices to quit seeking vacant possession from landlords selling their properties now account for over half of all notices to quit. Many of these families do not qualify for social housing as they are just above the limits. The limits have not changed in many years. These families have been renting for years and never expected to be homeless. They have good jobs, but cannot afford the rents of up to €3,200 a month for a four-bedroom house, such as the one that has been advertised in County Kildare. This generation has been locked out of home ownership. This Government and previous Governments, including the Green Party and the Labour Party, are the reason for this. The Government cares more about the institutional investors and vulture funds than any ordinary worker and their family. When in government, we will change this.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a housing system that sees families not in homes but in hotels, and tourists not in hotels but in homes. I refer to the survey published by The Times Ireland edition last week, which showed that Airbnb rentals now outstrip long-term rental homes in every county. The Minister of State and I share a constituency. A quick look at Airbnb shows that there are currently 94 properties available for short-term let, while Daft is advertising 12 for long-term let across both counties. That is before we get to the issue of affordability. It is clear further action is needed to regulate the short-term letting sector. The housing crisis is having a disastrous effect not only on our younger people starting out but on every single sector across the country. We all know of areas where large employers are buying up available properties simply to ensure their staff actually have somewhere to live. It is soul-destroying for those looking for a genuine home to see so many properties available to short-term rent for holidays while they are desperately trying to put a roof over their head for them and their family. Our rental sector is in crisis, renters need a break, and we need to strengthen the enforcement of the planning regulations for short-term lettings that were introduced years ago.

This Bill, while simple, will be effective because it will require estate agents and online platforms to advertise only those properties that are compliant with the planning and development regulations. It will also allow for the issuing of on-the-spot fines to Airbnb and other providers who advertise non-compliant properties. The Bill is not about banning genuine peer-to-peer home sharing. However, we cannot ignore the fact that further action is needed. We need stricter regulations to ensure the properties being advertised without exemptions or planning permission are removed from the short-term letting market and there is a real disincentive from doing so in the future.

It seems at this stage the Government is completely tone-deaf when it comes to the crisis in the rental sector.

I and, I believe, many people were shocked when they saw nothing was done in the budget for renters. I am equally shocked nothing has been done for renters since. We have a completely crazy situation in Galway city where there are in excess of 1,500 Airbnb properties to rent but only 44 places or properties to rent long term. That is greatly impacting on people.

We also have a situation where the average rent is in excess of €1,500. A quick visit to an Airbnb website to tot up a month's rent for such a property will show it will cost more than €2,500 for a single room and in excess of €5,000 for an apartment. This shows the completely crazy situation in respect of Airbnb properties in Galway city.

The Minister of State is as aware as I am that notices to quit are through the roof in Galway at the moment. The Government inaction on this issue is having an impact on and messing with real people's lives.

I had a clinic yesterday and the Minister of State will know well that constituent after constituent who came into me raised the issue of housing. There are young families in bed and breakfast accommodation that is completely substandard, where black mould is growing and the mattresses are completely dirty. This situation exists but the appropriate laws are not being enforced.

I hope the Minister of State will listen tonight to constructive criticism from the Opposition to ensure this law is passed.

I welcome the introduction of the Short-term Lettings Enforcement Bill 2022 and commend Deputy Ó Broin on his work on this issue. The rental sector, as we know, is in crisis and renters need a break, but unfortunately, as we see time and again, the Government is not listening. Sinn Féin has brought motions before this House to alleviate the pressure on renters by giving them a month’s rent back in their pockets, beginning a massive housebuilding programme and bringing forward many other measures to try to help deal with this housing crisis. The current short-term letting regime relies on a planning system and standard planning enforcement through the courts that can take a very long time to progress and resolve. This new Bill allows for the issuing of spot fines to Airbnb property owners and other providers who advertise non-compliant properties.

This is something I raised time and again when I was a councillor on Fingal County Council. Nothing was done, however, because the council did not have the resources to enforce the law. A law that is unenforceable is a waste of time.

The figures at the moment in Dublin are completely staggering. A total of 2,704 properties are advertised on Airbnb while just 436 are available for long-term letting. In Blanchardstown, in Dublin West, there are more than 100 properties on Airbnb and only 30 properties available for long-term letting. It can be seen where the crisis lies and where the putting in place of a very simple measure can deal with this.

While the purpose of the Bill is not to shut down short-term letting sites and platforms, it will make them more compliant and ease the availability of properties in the rental sector. Here is another opportunity for the Government to back renters and ordinary workers and families in this sector and show it is listening. I listened to the Minister on the radio yesterday when he said he was planning to bring forward legislation. As Deputy Ó Broin has said, we are ready and willing to work with the Government to get this sorted but, mark our words, this must be sorted. Families cannot wait any longer.

I thank an Teachta Ó Broin for bringing this Bill to the House and for his continuing work on the issue of housing.

The current state of the rental market means we must do whatever we can to ensure as much supply as possible is available to the thousands of individuals and families who are in immediate need of accommodation. That is why we have brought forward a Bill that simply calls for the laws that allow property owners to rent their properties on short-term leases to be enforced.

In many counties, especially in my own county of Tipperary, rental properties that are available to rent are very few and far between. Families are being issued with notices to quit and are then facing a rental market where demand is outstripping supply to such an extent that many families who never considered homelessness as a likelihood are now finding that prospect to be a very real possibility. Many properties that are available to rent are of little use to these families as they are only available for short-term lettings, typically through Airbnb.

The number of properties in County Tipperary recently available on short-term lets on Airbnb outstripped the number of properties for long-term rent on daft.ie by a ratio of nearly 20:1. That gives us an idea of how many properties advertised for rent are not available to families who need long-term rental.

Under current law, namely, the Planning and Development Act 2000, if a person is letting out his or her property for less than 90 days a year, he or she requires a letter of exemption from the local authority. Any person letting a property out for 90 days of the year, or letting out a second property, needs planning permission or a change of use planning permission retention. This current short-term letting regime relies on the planning system and standard planning to be enforced by the courts. Figures released to Deputy Ó Broin earlier this year by a variety of local authorities show that the level of enforcement of and compliance with the regulations is exceptionally low.

Given the current state of the rental market and severe lack of suitable accommodation for thousands of people throughout the country, it is crucial that those property owners who comply with the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000 can make their properties available on short-term lets of 90 days or less. That is why we are bringing forward the Short-term Lettings Enforcement Bill to put stricter legislation in place to ensure estate agents and online platforms only advertise properties that are compliant with the planning regulations.

Our legislation will also see the Minister giving local authorities the power to issue spot fines to short-term letting providers and estate agents who advertise non-compliant properties. This will act as a further disincentive for the advertising of properties that are breaking the law. It does not limit genuine peer-to-peer home-sharing but seeks only to ensure the laws are enforced that prevent unscrupulous landlords from reducing the long-term rental market by bypassing regulations. Renters need a break and every avenue must be pursued to do this.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this Private Members' Bill on behalf of the Government. As the House is aware, new arrangements to regulate the short-term letting sector under the planning code were introduced in July 2019. The principal aim of the legislation was to return much-needed accommodation being used for short-term letting purposes in the designated rent pressure zones, RPZs, to the traditional long-term rental market, thereby increasing supply in the long-term market and helping to stabilise rents in those areas.

As has been outlined, Deputy Ó Broin's Bill comprises two amendments to the existing 2019 legislative provisions on short-term lettings: first, to make it an offence to advertise or let a house, or part of a house, in a rent pressure zone where that letting does not have the necessary planning permission or exemption, and second, to enable the Minister to make regulations permitting on-the-spot fines to be issued to persons, estate agents or online platforms that advertise or let properties for short-term letting purposes, contrary to the statutory provisions.

While the Government is not opposing Deputy Ó Broin's Bill and while also acknowledging it is well intentioned and has some merit, it is considered that amending the Planning and Development Act, as proposed, is not the most appropriate mechanism to achieve the goals set out in the Private Members' Bill. In this regard, I would make the following points. First, in light of the fact the current provisions, as operated by local authorities under the planning code, have not been as effective as envisaged, the Government has agreed a specific action in Housing for All, action 20.4, "Develop new regulatory controls requiring Short-Term and Holiday Lets to register with Fáilte Ireland with a view to ensuring that homes are used to best effect in areas of housing need". Officials from my Department and the Department with responsibility for tourism, along with Fáilte Ireland, have been working on new legislative arrangements to replace the current short-term letting provisions with a new registration system for short-term lets to be operated by Fáilte Ireland, which it is intended will become operational by early 2023.

While the precise details of the new arrangements remain to be finalised, it is envisaged they will incorporate somewhat similar proposals to those in Deputy Ó Broin's Bill in placing restrictions on the advertising of short-term letting properties by their owners or agents on online platforms as well as restrictions on the online platforms themselves, with associated penalties. These new arrangements will go further than what is proposed in the Private Members' Bill and will be easier and less cumbersome to enforce, with local authorities and the planning code no longer having any role in this area.

The proposal for the application of on-the-spot fines for non-compliance with the short-term letting provisions would be out of step with the existing approach and practice under the Planning and Development Act. On-the-spot fines are generally applied on routine minor offences with fairly nominal penalties. Planning offences are generally regarded as being more substantial, requiring conviction by the courts and the application of more substantial penalties, including fines, imprisonment or both,as appropriate. It is considered that such a departure from the existing approach under the Planning and Development Act would not be justified.

To give an example of the types of penalties that can be applied in this area, the courts just last week issued a fine of €1,000 to the owner of a short-term letting property in Dublin for operating without the necessary planning permission or exemption, with the €3,500 legal costs of the planning authority also being awarded against the property owner in question, in addition to the latter having to bear his own legal costs relating to the case. In any event, it is considered that the issuing of on-the-spot fines in this area could best be examined in the context of a new registration system to be operated by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, rather than such fines being introduced in the final months of the current short-term letting provision.

Like all Deputies across the political spectrum in the House, one of the key overriding priorities of the Government is to address the negative impacts of the current supply-constrained housing market on our society, particularly in those areas where housing demand is most acute. The proposed new registration system for short-term lets will be specifically targeted at assisting supply in the private rental market. The Government looks forward to the publication of the necessary underpinning legislative provisions in this regard in the coming months and their subsequent urgent enactment.

One of the key solutions to the current crisis is to increase supply, which is what the Government is singularly focused on doing. I listened to Deputies on the opposite benches, one after another, going through the situation in their various constituencies. That is what I deal with in my role and I see the huge constraint in supply. I held a clinic yesterday morning that was attended by a huge number of people in very difficult, vulnerable circumstances pointing out the lack of availability of rental supply. This is the first point I want to make in response to Deputies. As politicians, we are all dealing with the vulnerabilities of our constituents and trying our very best to respond to them as quickly as we can.

Second, it is quite amusing to hear Deputies cite the huge supply constraint in their constituencies and then advocate for a refundable rental credit. That would put more fuel on the fire of a constrained marketplace and encourage prices to go up, which would affect the most vulnerable. Such an approach is diametrically opposite to the role of the help-to-buy scheme, for example, which incentivises supply of new properties and has enabled well over 20,000 families to get the keys to a new home. Looking at the current rental market, we see a situation whereby thousands of landlords, 85% of whom are renting out one property, have left the marketplace. The response to that from the Deputies of a certain party sitting opposite me is to tax those landlords more by imposing a second home charge, as set out in their party's pre-budget submission, of €400 on all second properties. All Deputy Ó Broin has to do is look at his party's pre-budget submission to see that proposal. It is a reflection of where Sinn Féin is coming from in respect of a market in which landlords who are renting out only one property and who are needed to secure tenure for renters are departing.

I will outline what the Government has done. We have introduced tenancies of indefinite duration in an effort to protect vulnerable renting citizens in our State. Second, we introduced a number of Bills throughout the Covid crisis to protect the most vulnerable and ensure people could stay in their tenancies at a time when a massive challenge faced the State. We also introduced new measures of tenure such as cost rental provision, which will be a huge asset in providing long-term, sustainable tenure below the market rate. This is key in assisting citizens to have security of tenure into the future. These measures are part of our singular approach, which is about driving up supply. If we look at the metrics in terms of the commencement notices that have been issued over the past year, we see that the constant trajectory is one of increased supply. There are diggers on sites and builders are constructing more homes to ensure we are within touching distance of getting to the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, requirement of providing more than 33,000 homes per annum. I am very much aware that much more is needed, but our construction industry is trying to ramp up construction and deliver it at pace. The State is delivering record levels of social housing units through the local authority system, including by changing the delivery mechanisms, on which we are absolutely focused.

When it comes to the vulnerable people I meet in my clinic every week, as I always say in this House, no one has a patent on compassion. We are all meeting vulnerable people every single week. That is why comments such as that we are putting vulture funds higher up the ranks than citizens do a total disservice to this debate. As a politician, where I am coming from is to try to do my very best in my constituency. I can look the people coming into my clinic in the eye and say there is huge hope. I can point to my town, where some 300 units are currently under construction, to show there is hope on the horizon. I know it is a very tough time at the moment but we are working from a low base to increase supply at pace. That is the way to a better future. We all need to work together, including on the Bill brought forward this evening, which I welcome. I want to be very clear that I welcome it. It is the comments that surround the debate and that are made for the social media clips with which I have an issue. Saying that we are placing a greater premium on a vulture fund than we do on the citizens we meet every week does a huge disservice to politics.

I thank the Minister of State for his contribution, although I found some of it quite bizarre. It seems to be Government policy now to claim that every time we on this side of the House speak, it is about social media clips. I do not do social media clips, in fairness, but I do stand up for my constituents. As he said, we all have people and families coming to our constituency clinics who are in absolute distress. The homeless action team in Limerick is under massive pressure, with 80 notices to quit issued last week.

The Government is losing control of the situation and we are in a crisis. A look at daft.ie shows there are ten properties available to rent in Limerick city. The monthly rental cost for a basic three-bedroom apartment in Dooradoyle, an area popular with families, is €1,600. Year on year, according to daft.ie, rental prices have increased by an average of 15.5% in Limerick city, with a three-bedroom house now costing nearly 13% more than it did this time last year.

We in Sinn Féin have long argued that renters deserve a break. They deserve some security and to be paying less than some of the extortionate prices currently being charged. We have proposed a number of actions that could and should be taken to alleviate the stress on renters. The Minister of State has dismissed some of them but I will restate the ones I have raised in this debate and in other debates over the past two years. Our proposals include a three-year ban on rent increases and a rent rebate that would put one month's rent back into the pockets of hard-pressed renters and ensure greater security of tenancy for renters. We have proposed to resource the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, to enforce the Government's rent regulations properly and introduce real tenancies of indefinite duration. There is a rental crisis and a lack of accommodation throughout the State. As of 1 May, the number of properties available for rent across the country stood at 851, which was a 77% year-on-year decrease. We have a problem.

In the short time remaining to me, I will speak briefly about the plight of residents in the Shannon Arms apartment complex in Limerick city, who are facing a most unscrupulous attempt to evict them in order that landlords' profits can be increased. These residents, many of them young families, are facing eviction. They have been treated in the most undignified way, with intimidatory tactics used and threatening letters issued. This is happening after some of the families have been at the location for more than a decade. Some of the tenants have already been bullied out, with their apartments apparently relet as short-stem stays to maximise profit. Given the lack of rental properties available in the city, many of the residents will be facing homelessness if an intervention is not made. Landlords in the complex, some of them well-known multimillionaires who often appear in the media, have placed the whiff of extra profit before their moral responsibility to their long-term tenants. As we are debating short-term lettings and a diminishing rental stock, I appeal to the Minister to intervene in this matter and ensure this community of families is protected from Dickensian-type landlord behaviour.

There has been a significant reduction in the number of landlords offering new tenancies as rental costs have surged. According to the RTB, rental costs for new tenancies have risen by an additional 9% since last year. With the large volume of landlords leaving the rental sector each year, there is an acute shortage of properties for those looking to rent. Not only is it hard to find a place but, if they do, people find they have to spend a large percentage of their income on accommodation costs, with properties in Dublin North-West averaging at up to €2,000 per month.

There is no doubt that Airbnb is having a detrimental impact on the limited available housing stock. The easy profits that can be made from short-term rentals are only going to encourage landlords to move their properties out of the long-term market. There is a consequence of this for the housing market that has been described as the Airbnb effect. It reflects the impact Airbnb has on local housing markets. This is increasingly a cause for concern, particularly in respect of housing stock and house prices.

The growth in Airbnb, both here and abroad, is proving to be damaging for local housing markets. It will result in an increase in the value of an area to the detriment of locals who cannot afford to buy property where they grew up and where their families and communities reside. Locals are being pushed out of their own neighbourhoods due to financial constraints at a time when there is a dire need for affordable housing stock. An increasing number of properties are being advertised for short-term lettings and the number of such properties is far in excess of long-term rentals being advertised.

There is also a concern that many properties are being advertised without proper planning permission or exemptions. The Bill being brought forward this evening by my colleague Deputy Ó Broin will ensure that those entering the short-term letting market are compliant with planning regulations. The Bill will amend section 38 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and will require estate agents and online platforms to only advertise properties that are compliant with the Act. This is an important step to ensure full compliance with planning regulations and will go towards preventing rogue operators operating in the market.

I will start by commending my colleague Deputy Ó Broin on bringing forward this legislation. The Bill mainly stems from the report published in 2017 by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government which made unanimous recommendations for the then Government to regulate the short-term letting sector. It illustrated the economic and social impact of how Airbnbs that are let over 90 days per year artificially affect the supply of bona fide renter properties. The Short-term Lettings Enforcement Bill 2022 will regulate to that effect by requiring estate agents and online platforms not to advertise properties other than those that are compliant with planning regulations. It also allows for the issuing of on-the-spot fines to Airbnb and other providers that advertise non-compliant properties.

This legislation comes at a time when the rental market is becoming a dysfunctional, out-of-control, money-grabbing industry. The latest Daft.ie report shows that my own county of Wexford saw an astonishing 14.2% year-on-year increase in rent. This is inflating and adding to the already high cost-of-living crisis currently being faced by working people and their families. They are facing extortionate energy costs, increasing carbon tax, rip-off insurance and soaring childcare costs.

We know rents will continue to rise, causing more single people and families to return to their family homes to sofas or garages. Worse still, those who do not have that unfortunate option are facing the streets. Research recently conducted by The Times Ireland edition shows that Airbnb now outstrips long-term rental homes in every county. In Wexford, there are 490 properties advertised on Airbnb, compared to only 11 on Daft.ie. This is why constituency offices throughout the country, including mine, are inundated with people unable to secure rental properties for themselves and their families. The scarcity has created an unprecedented increase in rents that middle- and lower-income families just cannot afford. Urgent action to regulate the short-term letting sector is needed. All Deputies must have the courage to take on the rental crisis and the awful impact it has on our citizens and to do the right thing by supporting this Bill today.

I happy to speak on this Stage and I commend an Teachta Ó Broin on this Bill. As a Deputy in north Kildare, where people are struggling to find a place to rent or to buy, I believe the boom in short-term lets exposes much of what is wrong with us in this State, politically and socially, because of a particular kind of political priority. This priority puts the desires and greed of the short-term market over the basic human needs of people, workers and families who are desperate to rent or buy a home. Both renting and buying are becoming impossible now when wealth funds hoover up developments and, in the latest development, developer risk is to be underwritten by the taxpayer.

Recent statistics show that Airbnb outstrips long-term lets in every county. This short-term market is putting the kibosh on workers completely. Quite simply, we have to give our renters a break. This Bill will do that, not by cajoling or asking nicely, but by using the law to fine agents and platforms that advertise properties without the appropriate planning permission or exemptions. Short-term lets would have to comply with the Planning and Development Act 2000 and where they did not, a spot fine would ensue. We simply cannot have people working harder and harder, in the vice of a cost-of-living crisis, only to find that people who use the short-term market are literally holding the key to a property that could be somebody's home.

We have to get our priorities right, which means prioritising human and social need over market and corporate greed. As we know, figures that were released to my party colleague Deputy Ó Broin by local authorities in Dublin, Sligo, Cork and Galway showed an exceptionally low level of compliance with planning law when it comes to lets of under 90 days. It sticks in my craw, as a politician and a Teachta Dála for north Kildare, to see my constituents, some of whom are in their 60s, sleeping in their cars or sofa-surfing at this stage of their lives. The short-term let market has divided and now conquered the rental market. It is socially unacceptable and morally repugnant that our renters are treated in this way.

I am taken aback by the contribution of the now departed Minister of State, Deputy Burke, when he said that the Government was not opposing the Bill. He said that while he acknowledges "that it is well intentioned and has some merit", he has something better up his sleeve, apparently for later. I heard Deputy Ó Broin on KFM this morning liken the current situation to hoarding food in a famine. It is exactly that. I cannot believe the number of notices to quit that are coming into my constituency office in the past two months. It is an absolutely hopeless situation. We are not enjoying this. We have plenty to be getting on with, without highlighting the crisis we are in. We are in a real crisis and it is time for change.

I very much welcome the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Labour Party on the Short-term Lettings Enforcement Bill 2022. It is very important that we have a proper ventilation of this issue in the Chamber this evening. Nobody is making any overstated claims about the utility of the legislation. It is not a panacea but it certainly is a contribution to what is a very live debate and important issue across our society. The issue of short-term lets is one, as the House will know, that has been ventilated very prominently by my colleague Senator Moynihan, who is the Labour Party housing spokesperson. She has been especially prominent on this issue in recent times. We have called for stronger regulations and tougher enforcement on short-term letting. It is within that context that this Bill will receive our full support.

I note that the Government is not opposing the legislation. That is welcome but as we say repeatedly, probably every Tuesday and Wednesday night in this House and sometimes on a Thursday evening, about the Bills that surface through the lotto, that is not the same as proactively supporting the legislation. We know reforms are on the way, as the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, pointed out. They will be devised by Fáilte Ireland. I hope they will be devised in close co-operation with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Let us see how that evolves over the coming months.

We know that short-term rentals are a scourge for ordinary people seeking an affordable place to live. These are predominantly, but not exclusively, Airbnb listings. Of course, there are other platforms such as Booking.com. They are squeezing renters out and not only do they further limit the already short supply of available dwellings, they also significantly drive up rental costs. That is simply how the market works. The pandemic, as was articulated earlier on, saw a temporary shift of a good few thousand listings from short-let platforms to the home rental market. Combined with a ban on evictions and temporary rent freezes, which the Labour Party believes should be introduced for a period of three years, renters were given something of a respite and relief but that respite was all-too brief. The easing of public health restrictions has seen a return to what might be termed as "business as usual" in the rental market and many rental properties have been put back on the short-term letting market.

We know and debate in this House every day the problems that constituents and citizens throughout the country are experiencing with ever-rising high rates of rent. It is evident throughout the country. There is no doubt that short-term letting is part of the problem. Analysis by my colleague Senator Moynihan, conducted in March this year, further proves this point. It showed that nearly all counties had significantly greater numbers of properties advertised for short-term stays on Airbnb than properties available on Daft.ie. In my county of Louth alone, there were three times as many properties available as short-term lets on the popular holiday accommodation website, Airbnb, than there were advertised on Daft.ie. There were 89 properties on Airbnb, compared to 29 on Daft.ie. I hope we would all agree that it is simply unacceptable in the middle of a housing crisis that in every single county except for Dublin, we have more houses for tourism that we do for rent.

Not only have we seen crowding of residential properties by Airbnb and similar operators, but we have also seen an apparent failure by local authorities to properly enforce existing regulations. That goes to the heart of the proposals from Deputy Ó Broin this evening. The 2019 regulations simply are not working. I believe they were introduced with the best of intentions. Warnings were provided by Deputy Ó Broin's party and my party, including my former colleague, then Senator Kevin Humphreys, that the regulations were not sufficiently tight, but I accept that they were introduced with the best of intentions. There is acknowledgement at the heart of Government that they are simply not working. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has put that on record in the media. He may have said the same in this House. It is clear to us all that they are not working and this Bill is a response to that.

Twelve counties did not issue any warning letters last year regarding properties for short-term let that were not on the register, did not receive exemptions or did not have planning permission and 11 did not launch any investigations at all. Louth County Council is continuing its efforts to crack down on illegal short-term lettings and to promote suitable medium- to long-term accommodation. It is one of only 15 councils around the country which have taken action against property owners renting homes to holidaymakers as the housing crisis worsens. It has been relatively proactive in issuing 12 warnings and commencing 84 investigations last year, with, as the Minister will acknowledge, limited personnel available. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg. No local authority across the country can keep pace with the numbers streaming back onto the market, whether they are legal and registered, with planning exemptions and planning permission, or illegal.

I will use the example of Carlingford. It is a beauty spot in County Louth that we are all proud of. It is, rightly, a haven for tourists. A constituent was in touch with me last month and was concerned about the levels of short-term lettings and the unavailability of rental properties. She informed me that there were only two properties to rent in Carlingford. It has been a rent pressure zone since 2019. One house and one apartment were available. There were 45 properties on Airbnb. I looked at the figures for County Louth before I came into the Chamber. While looking at Daft.ie is not scientific and does not provide a comprehensive picture of what is available to rent, it is a reasonable picture of what is available to rent and in Louth, there were 17 rental properties. Not a single property was available in my home town of Drogheda. Some 113 were available on Airbnb for the month of June. That puts this issue in context.

Carlingford urgently needs long-term housing solutions for the people who live there. Their housing needs should not come second to those who are spending a week, a weekend or the summer in what is admittedly a beautiful and welcoming area. We need to be conscious of that. Areas such as Carlingford are home to many hundreds of people. They are places that people value. I get many complaints from residents of the Carlingford area. While existing residents of the Carlingford area welcome the influx of tourists, which is important for the local economy, we always need to be conscious that generations of families have made that area their home and it is not simply a place to which people go on holidays. Looking at the places for rent on Daft.ie compared with Airbnb, one would wonder. That illustrates why we need practical regulation of this area. I mean regulation that will actually work and is balanced. The balance is key.

As I said earlier, many local authorities are swimming against the tide when it comes to the regulation of short-term letting. They are not really sufficiently empowered to do it. We all know the 2019 legislation is not working. This Bill is designed to make it work better and to give the 2019 legislation some teeth, but we all know that planning, enforcement and housing departments across the country are chronically understaffed given the ambitions the Government has for housing, which are unfortunately not being realised. I would appreciate an update from the Minister of State in his concluding remarks, if possible, on what funding has been allocated by his Department to allow local authorities across the country to properly enforce the 2019 regulations and legislation. Will we simply wait for the Fáilte Ireland regulatory regime to be introduced in 2023? The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, said that is when he expects the Fáilte Ireland regulations to be operational.

I am happy to support this Bill on behalf of the Labour Party. This legislation is an important contribution to the debate. I repeat ad nauseam in this Chamber that if we are to provide supply in a quick fashion, we need to focus on bringing vacant units in our town centres, which are serviced and can be brought back onto the market quickly, back into use. I fear, given the background noise in the media over the last few days, that we are being conditioned not to expect too much from the vacant homes tax that has been long-mooted and which the Labour Party has proposed for a long time.

I welcome this Bill. The Social Democrats will support it. I thank an Teachta Ó Broin for tabling it. The general thrust and approach is to place responsibility on the platforms that advertise short-term lets. They clearly have a key responsibility to ensure that in order to advertise, or accept an advertisement, they should have proof that it is planning compliant. That should have been done several years ago when these regulations were first brought in. We can have a good discussion on Committee Stage about whether the on-the-spot fines need to be broadened and so on. I strongly support this Bill.

I hate to be the one to state the bleeding obvious. Giving the responsibility for this to Fáilte Ireland tells us everything we need to know about how seriously the Government takes this. The job of Fáilte Ireland is nothing to do with housing need or rental supply. It does not monitor that and has no responsibility in that regard. It is not what it does. It has never done that and will never do that. As everyone in the country knows, Fáilte Ireland has key responsibility for promoting and developing tourism in Ireland. It does not have an interest in regulating housing or rental supply. It never will have an interest in that and it will not do that. Its function is not to maximise the supply of rental accommodation, which clearly falls with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Fáilte Ireland has no remit whatsoever to look after that, which is our primary concern and why this Bill has been tabled. We know, from the fact that the Government has decided to give this serious responsibility for housing and rental supply to an agency with no remit whatsoever in that area, just how seriously the Government takes this. It does not take it seriously at all. This will not work. We know that from how the Government is approaching it. It is farming out an important job to another agency with no remit, particular interest or priority in this area.

One can tell how seriously the Government takes any kind of function by looking at who it gives it to. When the Government is really serious about collecting tax, it gives the function to the Revenue Commissioners. When it is not serious about regulating the building industry, it says that the people to regulate the building industry are the lobby group and representative group for the construction industry. We know, when it comes to tackling short-term lets and how they impact on rental supply, that the Government has looked at who is interested in maximising the number of short-term lets in the country and the accommodation for tourists and given the responsibility to Fáilte Ireland. The Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, has departed. It appears from his comments that the Government intends to bring in a loose licensing system to be operated by Fáilte Ireland for short-term lets.

We certainly have not got any detail in the comments indicating that there would be anything beyond some sort of loose licensing system. If that is not the case, I ask the Minister of State to give us details as to how this would be a robust system. If it is a robust system, why has it been given to an agency that has no remit in this in terms of rental or housing supply? Why on earth is the Government taking that approach to something so important that needs to be dealt with urgently?

Not only does Bord Fáilte have no remit in this area; it is not the body monitoring housing demand around the country and will never be. It is monitoring tourism figures. That is its bottom line, to ensure the maximum number of tourists. That is absolutely at odds with trying to have balance in short-term lets and how they impact on reducing rental supply. Why is the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage relinquishing its responsibility in this and giving it to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Bord Fáilte? Have any of the short-term letting companies been involved in lobbying on or devising what I consider to be at best an incredibly ineffective scheme? It is not going to work. If we were being cynical, we would think it has been designed to fail, potentially at the behest of industry.

On tourism and the effects of short-term lets, not only do they effect people in their ability to rent and people who need a home; their dominance at this point is actually undermining the development of tourism in certain areas. People who want to work in key tourism industries and are looking to rent cannot do so because of the dominance of short-term lets in tourism areas. Even they are now facing pressure and it is causing problems for smaller businesses and employers. It is so unbalanced.

What is happening with short-term lets is symptomatic of a broken housing system. Housing has been turned into a financial commodity and an asset. The people's needs in terms of a home are secondary to where people can make the best return. If we do not regulate short-term lets properly and protect rental supply, of course people are going to go where they can get the best returns. If they can make more money off short-term lets they will move to that. They have been moving to that and out of long-term letting of properties which gives people the ability to have a home and provides much-needed accommodation.

We should be looking at best practice internationally on this. We should be looking at cities like Amsterdam, for example, where a ban on short-term lets was brought in in parts of the old city and canal area in 2020. They also brought in a very strong regulation system with that. Following the overturning of the ban in March 2021, they brought in legislation in November 2021 which provided that anyone buying a home for under €512,000 must be an owner-occupier and must live in the house for four years. They put in strong measures to protect their rental accommodation and their housing stock against this over-speculation and dominance.

I want to respond to some of the comments made by the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, before he departed. He accused Opposition parties of adding fuel to the fire in terms of housing supply. Government policy is very much adding fuel to the fire. The Government is now spending more than €1 billion in subsidies going to investment funds and private landlords that are pushing up rents. That is going through long-term leasing and the HAP and RAS schemes. It is the same Government that is adding fuel to the fire through the favourable tax treatment and tax incentives for investment funds. It is the same Government that has decided in its wisdom to add fuel to the fire by giving €450 million in subsidies to developers and by guaranteeing their profit margins as part of those subsidies while at the same time removing a substantial amount of risk. That risk was part of the justification for the profit margins of those developers.

It is simply not true to say that we have tenancies of indefinite duration. That is absolutely not the case. I find it disturbing if that is really what the Government believes. If it really believes its own spin on this, things are worse than I thought they were. A tenancy of indefinite duration as exists in other countries means that if a tenant is paying rent, is compliant and is not engaged in antisocial behaviour or anything like that, he or she is not subject to eviction. That is not the situation here. There is a long list of reasons that are used to evict people from their homes here. It is very welcome that we now have some cost rental in Ireland. Comparing cost rental in Ireland to other countries or to the Vienna model, though, the rent on a two-bed newly built apartment in the city in Vienna is about €660 per month. We are looking at double that sort of rent in cost rental in Ireland. One of the reasons for that is that a lot of the cost rental has been sourced from private sources. We are building in the private profit margins and high financing risks as well.

I am sharing time with Deputy Boyd Barrett. Staggering profits are being made from short-term letting in the midst of the greatest housing crisis in the history of the State. According to the online publication, Tripe + Drisheen, citing the AirDNA website, a five bedroom house on the south side of Cork city yielded €71,400 income through Airbnb last year. According to the same sources, a two bedroom house on the south side of Cork city yielded an Airbnb income last year of €47,500. Long-term rental rates in Cork city are scandalously high and are pricing ordinary people out of the market. These short-term letting rates are a multiple of the long-term rates and are making their owners a fortune at the ultimate expense of people trying to find a place for themselves and get a roof over their heads, many of whom are ending up homeless. Little wonder that the ratio of short-term letting to long-term leases on entire houses, not just rooms, in Cork city is 17:1. The ratio for Cobh and Youghal in County Cork is 55:1. The vast majority of short-term lettings in Cork city and county are taking place in defiance of the planning laws.

I support the Bill because it makes that an offence and gives the power to the Minister with responsibility for housing to make regulations permitting the issuing of spot fines to persons, estate agents and online platforms. These spot fines should be sufficiently hefty to act as a strong and powerful deterrent. If and when this Bill is passed, extra resources must also be provided to local authorities to allow them to follow up and enforce the new powers.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin for bringing forward this Bill, which we support. When in Dublin there are 2,700 Airbnb short-term lets being advertised but only slightly over 400 long-term lets, we know the Government's policy is failing yet again. Despite some efforts being made to limit or regulate this area, they just have not worked.

Those who are pursuing profit from property are simply ignoring the rules, and we do not have a regime to do anything about it. These measures will at least attempt to address that problem. I refer to forcing estate agents or platforms that advertise short-term lets to at least try to establish whether they are within the planning regulations. I refer also to the establishment of the power to issue spot fines to those that do not do so or that offer short-term lets that are not within the law. I agree with that.

We need to go further, however, because there is an emergency. This House agreed some time ago that we have a housing and homelessness emergency, but we just do not act accordingly. The Government most certainly does not although it pays lip service to it. An emergency means you do unprecedented things to address it. Not doing so is obscene and immoral in the teeth of this crisis. If we had a functioning housing sector and did not have 10,000 households in emergency accommodation, 20-year waiting lists for social housing and rents and house prices that the vast majority of working people cannot afford, we could operate in a different way. However, in the teeth of the incredible suffering that people are going through, we need emergency measures. Deputy Cian O’Callaghan is right that in the epicentre of the housing crisis, there simply should not be short-term lets available. They should not be allowed when we need people, including families and children, to be housed properly.

Let me raise the case of a woman whose case I have raised many times. Hers is one of many cases but I am referring to it again because I received a text from her today. She told me how her youngster, who is 11 years old, is now seeing a psychological counsellor to assess the impact on his mental health and his trauma because the family is three and a half years in emergency accommodation. She has been thrown off the housing list because her income is too high. She is not even entitled to the housing assistance payment now and her child is being damaged. That there are others making money out of short-term lets when this family needs a place to live is just obscene. We need emergency measures. If we had a functioning housing sector in which the State had built a sufficient amount of public and affordable housing, we might operate in a different way; however, in the face of an emergency, you have to do unprecedented things. We need to start doing them. Short-term letting should not be allowed, full stop, in the areas where the housing crisis is focused, which is in the major urban centres, including Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Galway.

Seeing as we are talking about advertising, let me highlight something else. The development up in Cherrywood really drives me insane because it is the biggest residential development in the State. It is basically a new town. The State put in the Luas. The site is off the N11 and millions of euro have been spent on infrastructure. For a brief period, the development was in public hands, in the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, but we flogged it off to developers and speculators. Finally, more than a decade later, housing is starting to appear there. There are apartments and so on. An outfit that was drawn to my attention this week – Hali, which has offices on Mount Street – is advertising studios for €1,500 and single-bedroom apartments for €1,800, going up from there. They are not exactly cheap. It gets worse, however. With regard to Cherrywood, two people came to me this week. Both are working and on reasonably decent incomes. One, a young woman, is earning €3,000 per month and does another job for which she earns another €500 or €600. The other, a man, is in the same boat. The two emailed Hali and said they wanted to rent one of its apartments. Hali said it was pre-approving them. Later, after months of emails, they were told they were progressing brilliantly, that it was all looking good and that they should just send in their bank documents, and this and that. At the end of the process, however, this crowd just turned around and said it was not giving them the apartments. There was no explanation whatsoever and the people affected are absolutely gutted because they are so desperate. They looked up one of the directors of the company and saw that, in a tweet or post, Hali referred to how it was very glad to be doing work with big corporations to house their talent in some of their apartments. It is a new twist to the housing tale that the apartments are being let en masse to big corporations that gazump ordinary individuals who have been engaging in good faith to try to rent them. They are gazumped because the company is interested only in money. That is the problem with our whole housing policy. Irrespective of whether short-term lets or this kind of behaviour is in question, these companies cannot be let dictate what happens in our housing sector and the availability of rental property. The State has to dictate.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the issue. When it comes to housing, the various rules, regulations and proposals being debated by the Government and the main Opposition party are, as the saying goes, like “two bald men fighting over a comb”. I do not have a great deal of confidence that either side is identifying the root causes. The Bill deals with what I would describe as cosmetic issues given that the crucial issues are more structural and need to be the focus of our attention.

The housing situation has been allowed to deteriorate over the past 15 years or so owing to a series of poorly designed regulations and Government interventions, which in their totality seem to have made the overall problem even worse. The latest plan to award developers grants is yet another white-elephant solution. A developer with an apartment where demand is expected, such as Cork city, will receive a grant, yet a developer in Cork county will not. What is the aim of the policy? Is it to stop developers from going out of business? Is it to ensure the apartments get completed? Perhaps it is both. Why, then, should it matter where the apartment is located? That the Government has now deemed it necessary to provide such heavy subsidies for the construction of apartments in the areas with the greatest demand should be a major wake-up call when it comes to the types of dwellings that are being pushed by planning authorities and county councils via the local development plans. If they cannot be built and sold in the areas with the highest demand without the Government having to subsidise them, what hope is there for those forced to build high-density dwellings in areas of low or no demand?

The main cause of the problem is the planning regulations. If a developer wants to build in Wexford, it will be told by the planners that there must be 35 dwellings per hectare, as is soon to be enshrined in the county development plan. The demand for those types of units in Wexford town is very low and therefore a developer will not risk a major investment under such conditions. Apartments are very costly to build by comparison with houses. If there is no demand, why would they be built in towns like Wexford?

Back in June 2020, I had an exchange with the Minister of State, Deputy English, on the issue of density requirements. I will repeat what I stated:

The issue of minimum density at the edge of town and greenfield sites has caused significant problems outside of the M50 concerning the supply of housing. The imposition of such densities necessitates the construction of apartments at locations where they are just not viable. The application of these densities by An Bord Pleanála is unlawful and it undermines the statutory standing of every county development plan, as no specific minimums have been set out in the specific planning policy requirement, SPPR, or in the ministerial guidelines.

After a bit of tooth-pulling, I eventually managed to extract from the Minister of State confirmation that there are no minimum density requirements, despite An Bord Pleanála applying minimum density standards of its choosing. We now see the executives of county councils being contacted by the regulator. He is also imposing minimum densities, despite the Minister of State's confirmation that they do not exist. This regulator is a zealot and seems to be a law unto himself. The typology of houses built at higher densities is not what is required. There is not sufficient demand for such housing in rural constituencies. People want family homes with front and back gardens, not ghettos, as they will become.

Leaving aside the planning regulations, we need to look at other Government actions and how they worsen the problem of cost. Many Government regulations have resulted in dramatic increases in the cost of housing, increased transport and labour costs, increased carbon tax, the stagnation of our forestry industry for timber due to poor administration, extra regulations on material types, insurance increases, etc. All of this affects the cost at which a builder can construct a house. That extra cost naturally gets passed on to the buyer. The cause-and-effect relationship of Government decisions does not seem to be given near enough thought. There are a few Government supports for first-time buyers, such as the help-to-buy scheme with its €30,000 maximum grant. If a first-time buyer wants to ultimately live in a standard house with a bit of space like a garden, why would they waste all their first-time buyer's grant on a small apartment in an area in which they do not want to live? It is unattractive for a couple who want to start a family.

An article by Fiona Reddan in The Irish Times on Saturday explains why very few people are buying apartments as their forever home and how they are built with the buy-to-rent sector in mind. It is worth a read because she spoke to real people. We need to build dwellings people want in the places they want to live. It should not be based on the Planning Regulator going on a personal crusade to enforce his version of planning laws and Joe Public or Cork County Council having to take judicial review proceedings to put him back in his box.

There are many advantages to living in rural areas but the Government places barrier after barrier in the way of many people. It wants to herd everyone into high-density apartment blocks with no transport infrastructure to support them. Many rural Government Deputies no doubt live in beautiful rural detached homes set on half an acre, where they raise their families with the support of close-knit communities, with family up the road and lifelong friends next door. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a great way to live. How many Deputies would happily swap that for a poky apartment with no garden on the outskirts of their local town? I would say few of them would be pleased about that prospect, yet many of them are happy to impose this Hobson's choice on our young people. When young people eventually gather up enough money and meet all the criteria to qualify for a mortgage, they might find themselves in competition with the local authority to buy an affordable house.

This Bill is another example of focus on the wrong problem. I do not see the practical problem this Bill would solve. In fact, it may serve to reduce the number of properties available for let in zones which are already under serious pressure. It might solve a technical administrative problem but it will not make things easier for people looking for somewhere to live on a short-term basis. This comes back to my point about the two bald men fighting over a comb. It is foolish to continue to regulate when each regulation is making the problem worse. An Bord Pleanála thinks it is above the law, the officials think they are working within the law and the Planning Regulator, Mr. Cussen, does not know the law.

The Government approach to housing regulations is like Father Ted trying to fix the dent in the car. With every attempt to solve the problem by tapping at the dent, he is inadvertently making it worse until the car is so broken that it is almost unrecognisable. That analogy perfectly illustrates the current mess the housing market is in. We need to stop tapping at the dents of our housing crisis and rethink our whole approach to the issue. Let us start from the bottom up - with planning. There is a major demand for housing and usually when there is a major demand for something, the free market will spur into action and meet it. However, the problem with housing is that the market is not being allowed to operate and is being restrained by the Government's ambiguous legislation, county councils' maladministration and the regulator's legal interpretations. Start here and stop blaming those who are trying to right the wrongs.

There has been a change so I call on the Independent Group.

I thank members of the Rural Independent Group for allowing me to speak ahead of them on this by way of exception. I appreciate that. I agree with Deputy Verona Murphy on a number of issues, but certainty not on the Planning Regulator and the manner in which he has been portrayed. It ignores how the Planning Regulator's role arose. It was because of a planning tribunal that cost a fortune, went on for years and found systemic corruption at every level of the planning process. Perhaps I am misquoting a little bit, but that was the gist of it.

I agree with the Deputy that there is a housing crisis but disagree that the market is being inhibited and cannot get its chance to provide. It is because the market has been given free rein that we have a housing crisis. There is no other explanation for it. We handed everything over lock, stock and barrel to the market to provide and it utterly failed to do so. We have changed housing from a human right and the most basic necessity into a commodity to be traded on the market. Unfortunately, Fine Gael and the Labour Party copper-fastened that in 2014 or 2015 when they enshrined the housing assistance payment in our legislation and said there was no other game in town. That was the language used at Galway City Council. Encapsulated and enshrined was that if you were on HAP, you were then appropriately housed. That was the market getting full ownership of the Government's responsibility to provide public housing.

I agree with the motion brought by Sinn Féin. Once again, I find myself thanking that party for bringing it. It is bringing in a Bill to amend the Planning and Development Act and to allow for the enforcement of existing legislation and regulations on short-term lettings which are not being enforced. I know the Minister of State has inherited a situation but can he imagine that Sinn Féin, and we are supportive of this, is introducing basic legislation because the existing regulations are not being enforced? What kind of a farcical situation is this? The regulations were brought in on foot of a report by the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government in 2018. It made 13 recommendations for the then Minister to regulate the short-term letting sector. The 19 regulations were introduced on foot of that. Also recommended was that a study of the impact of short-term letting on Ireland's housing and rental market be commissioned. It was commissioned and that study recommended that we needed further research.

Whether this legislation is wrong or right and sorts out the problem or does not, we have no choice but to support it because it puts the focus on the madness of what has been created. If the Minister of State has any say, let us go back to what the problem is here, as with climate change. When the National Parks and Wildlife Service was set up, it was determined that it would fail. It was under-resourced, under-financed and demonised, just like the Planning Regulator is being demonised. We are ignoring what has happened. When we looked at climate change we set up the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which should have been the focal point, but it was left under-resourced and so on. When we then go to housing, we see we have a jigsaw and we bring pieces in. During Covid we were supposed to have a fundamental change and brought in some measures protecting tenants. They are all gone now.

I turn to the CEO of Galway City Council. I never knew why we had to change from managers. I believe a city council is there to serve and a manager is there to manage those services. We have gone down the corporatisation road on everything and now we have a CEO. He stated in an update to councillors on 16 May that some 2,000 private landlords were leaving the rental market in Ireland every year.

Half of them are issuing notices of termination because they are selling the property. "The exodus of private landlords from the rental sector is being mirrored in Galway City with the latest figures showing that 37% of Notices of Termination issued ... [and so on] are for the purposes of sale with the consequent further depletion of private rented stock." It goes on and on.

Karina Timothy, the western regional services manager for Threshold, stated in a local newspaper that the rental market was at crisis point and unsustainable. She pointed out that, theoretically, Galway city and several other areas are rent pressure zones. Theoretically, there should not be an annual rent increase of above 2%. She stated it was clear from the report showing double-digit rent rises that the zones were not working. As regards County Galway outside the city, it is clear that rents are rising even more rapidly there. Yesterday or the day before, I heard of a four-bedroom house for rent in County Galway and asked people to guess what was the rent for that house. They guessed it was €1,500 or €1,800. The rent is nearer to €3,000. That is the position.

We have reached a stage where what has been created is an obscenity. I do not blame the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, who is present, for that but I will blame him if he does not stand up and say that he will not be part of the proposed solution that is market-driven and creating the problem. I will support him if he stands up and says that. It is time for change, just like it is time for change in the context of having learned from Covid. We need fundamental and transformative change in respect of climate and housing. The primary message is that having security is the most fundamental aspect of a democracy, but we do not have it in Ireland. A person very close to me whom I will not name - he or she would not thank me for doing so - may be homeless next week. Fortunately, I might be able to pick up the pieces a little bit, given that I am earning a salary. I am using this as an example. That person is expected to put on a suit and go into work but he or she has no place to stay from next Tuesday. There is no place to get in the cities of Dublin or Galway.

Let us look at the Locked Out of the Market report published by the Simon Community. I tire of quoting from it but it is my duty to do so. "The Simon Communities of Ireland’s quarterly Locked Out report shows yet another stark decline in the availability of affordable properties." One property was available within the HAP limits and it was in the suburbs of Galway. There were no properties in Galway city centre. There is €280,000 to deal with homelessness in Galway city and county. Government expenditure on HAP, RAS and leasing is more than €1 billion. Is the Minister of State aware that when I and other Deputies on this side of the House repeatedly tried to raise the issue of HAP rising continuously, we were laughed at? HAP should go. Obviously, it cannot go tomorrow, but it has to go. It is artificially keeping the market sky high.

Evictions are increasing. It is all here in this information from Focus Ireland. I pay tribute to Rory Hearne on his continued analysis of the situation. One in four children in Ireland, or 281,000 children, is growing up in the private rental sector. These children are in precarious and insecure living conditions. Obviously, that is very stressful and leads to all sorts of development regression. It is even more challenging for children with special needs. Half of all one-parent families are in poverty after they pay their housing costs. Half of all one-parent families are renting.

I refer to the Aran Islands. A person wrote to me to say he or she would love to stay on one of the Aran Islands. There are no properties available there. There are no properties in Ceantar na nOileán. There is house after house, however, left derelict. There is no policy for the islands yet. In 2019, with the help of the Dáil, we passed a motion for a policy for sustainable living on the islands. That policy has not yet come to pass. We are still being told it is coming. I gCeantar na nOileán, i gcroí-lár na Gaeltachta, tá neart foirgnimh agus tá siad ag titim as a chéile. Tá scoil á dúnadh i Leitir Calaidh, tá cinneadh déanta ag an mbord bainistíochta agus tá daoine as an Úcráin ag iarraidh cur fúthu cibé cén áit is féidir leo seilbh tithíochta a fháil ach níl tithíocht ar fáil. Níl an chosúlacht ar an scéal go bhfuil aon rud ar siúl ag an Rialtas ach Sinn Féin agus na daoine atá ar an taobh seo den Teach a mhaslú seachas seasamh suas agus a rá go bhfuil ciall cheannaithe aige agus nach féidir linn leanúint ar aghaidh mar sin. Instead, we get ridiculous back-and-forth comments that I will not even repeat.

We have a housing emergency. It must be declared and appropriate action must be taken to right what has happened. That can only be done with acknowledgement. The Minister stood there earlier and asked for our co-operation. I will give him none. His ideology is to the private market. If the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, stands up and tells me his ideology is practical - to provide public housing on public land - he will have my absolute 100% support, but that is not what has been said and I am tired of the duplicity and hypocrisy of the language being used.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill. I thank Sinn Féin, and Deputy Ó Broin in particular, for affording us this time to speak on housing. Certainly, housing for people who do not have homes is very important. We need to discuss all aspects of housing.

I do not agree with the Bill. It is basically a Bill for Dublin rather than one for rural Ireland. Maybe it is a more dominant issue for Dublin than it is for rural Ireland. The Bill will not sort the problem we have with housing. The way to sort the problem is to build more houses and to keep doing so. The local authorities should be afforded money to build houses, like they always did in the past, rather than having all these other schemes.

In Kerry, we are glad that in the past few days several houses have come on stream in Killarney. We thank Kerry County Council for building those houses in a very short time. They are very welcome indeed. I thank the likes of Michael Cronin - or Mike Jack, as we call him in Kerry - for all the houses he has built in Killarney and Milltown for Clúid. We should also recognise the great work KPH Construction is doing in Barraduff. More funding needs to be given to local authorities, however.

I will take one aspect of housing in Kerry that is under pressure. There are so many voids but the local authority is not getting the money to turn them around. When the tenant purchase scheme was operating properly, the money Kerry County Council got from selling a house to a tenant went straight into voids. That is not happening any more because the tenant purchase scheme was not fit for purpose in the first place, with the 80% figure. Even the new tenant purchase scheme is not a proper scheme.

Many landlords do not want to let long term for various reasons. Between finding or building a house and paying for it, there is a lot of trouble involved in acquiring a house. It should surely be the right of the person who owns the house to do whatever they want with it. They may want to let it for a few months in the short term. I know many landlords or people who own houses who rent them for a few months and are glad of the few bob. I met a couple the other day who are letting their property for the legal 90 days. They are going to live with her mother for the 90 days. They are letting the house because they want to put money aside to send their youngsters to college. God almighty, they should not be stopped from doing that. They are a very respectable and honourable couple but they were encountering problems with letting the house. I hope it is sorted now.

The visitors who come to rural Ireland for a few months mean a lot to the local economy in rural places such as Gneevguillia, Scartaglin and Kilgarvan.

It boosts the local pub or shop. That means something. We should not deprive those people of that. The other thing is these visitors want to experience rural areas. They perhaps left cities and hotels and gave half their life living in those very bright-light urban areas and want to experience a local place. If we hurt those people who operate what they call this Airbnb system, it would be wrong.

The other thing is that a Bill like this is not enforceable. On asking the local authorities to monitor this, I know and respect the local authority we are dealing with in Kerry and they have enough to do. Their outlook should be to provide housing and that is what they want to do, rather than monitoring this situation and sending out enforcement letters and whatever. They have enough to do besides doing that.

First of all, I thank Deputy Ó Broin and Sinn Féin for bringing forward this Bill. The legislation contained within this Bill would require estate agents and online hosting platforms to check if property owners have the correct planning documents before advertising their properties on their websites. If not, the law would then mean the platforms would be fined the amount they would earn per day from the property being rented out from their website.

I know Deputy Ó Broin will not mind me saying this. He is extremely proactive in this whole issue, and I very much respect all of the hard work and commitment he has put into his role. I do not always agree with everything he proposes, and he knows that. At the same time, I support his work ethic in regard to this. The one thing he is trying to do is what the rest of us want to do. We want to ensure we have a situation where there are enough properties available for people who need them, whether they are to purchase or the local authority is providing them. However, at times, we may have to agree to differ on how we do that, because we are not all the same. I could not agree all the time with Sinn Féin’s policies when it comes to housing quite simply because I do not believe they are achievable in the way Sinn Féin wishes to do them. It would be great if they could be, but I just do not agree they can be done practically.

I see where the Deputy is coming from with this proposal and it is only giving legal effect to what is there already and making it more easily enforceable. However, I am always concerned about what I call the undermining of people’s property rights. I am acutely aware of what Airbnb is doing to places in County Kerry. On one hand, we might say we want it, but on the other hand, it is making it impossible. For example, if we take a place such as Dingle, which we all adore, it is terribly difficult for those working there in the hospitality sector or any other type of job to get a place to put down their head at night. It is terribly difficult not just in Dingle but throughout County Kerry and in other parts of the country. If you are a worker going to place and you want a flat, apartment, house or house to share, you practically cannot get it or you definitely cannot get it at an affordable price. That is wrong. We should be catering for all different sectors of society when it comes to their housing needs.

However, we just have to be careful of one thing. I keep saying this and I will continue to do so because I want people such as those in Sinn Féin to follow this. I know they do not want to do harm to the housing sector, but what I see happening practically on the ground is people saying they will not be told what to do with their property anymore, so they sell it. When it is sold, it has gone from the rental market and it makes the problem worse. There are terribly genuine people here in the Dáil who are just doing what they consider to be right, but it actually could have the opposite effect. I know the Minister and the Government are acutely aware of that. I know the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage is too because I have heard him speak about it and I have spoken to him about what I would call the exodus out of the whole rental market. We have to try to stop that because it will not benefit anybody.

On this whole thing about how it is wrong for people to rent out and charge exorbitant rents, the first thing we have to do is always remember that, whatever type of renting is being done, it is the people here in this House who are taking over half of it in tax. If people are paying €1,000 a month in rent, the Government is taking half of that €1,000. The Government cannot be giving out about it, because it is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the money that is being paid in rent.

We have to tackle this problem from the ground up and not be aspirational about it. We have to be sensible about what we are doing and not drive people out of the market. We have to ensure there are properties are available for short-term lets because we want people to go into areas such as Killarney, around the Ring of Kerry, Killorglin, Cahersiveen or Kenmare, or all of the parts of north Kerry. I give that example only because it is the county that I am charged to represent, but it also applies to the rest of the country. We do not want to send out a message that we are driving the operators of Airbnb or short-term lets out of that business and we do not want them anymore. Of course we want them, but we want them to operate in a balanced way and in a way they are not taking over from everything else and making the problem worse.

Again, I thank Deputy Ó Broin, because what he is trying to do is a thing called his best, and you cannot be blamed for that.

I thank Deputy Ó Broin for bringing forward this Bill. I agree with Deputy Michael Healy-Rae that Deputy Ó Broin consistently brings forward legislation that at least sparks a debate and is very much trying to contribute positively towards this very important issue. For this reason, the Government will not be opposing this Bill.

I might try to just address some of the points raised by Members before I sum up. I refer to that last point raised by Deputies Healy-Rae. What the Government is proposing around the legislation and working in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland on will benefit the rural tourism sector as well as dealing with that challenge around short-term lets and properties that should be in the long-term rental sector and trying to tease that out. That is very important.

I have a friend who has a fantastic rural tourism product down in Ballycullen at the foothills of Slievenamon. He is very much largely reliant on short-term lets and their platforms for his business. By far the bulk of his trade is coming from there. It is supporting the types of projects such as Croc an Óir, which has converted farmhouse and brings income into rural tourism economies. That is what the Government is going to do and to benefit as well as address this issue of the enforcement around short-term lettings. It is very much a collaboration between the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and our Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

I wish to address a number of the other points raised by Deputy Connolly, in particular the issue around the market leading. Since the Minister, Deputy O’Brien, has taken office, he has consistently led, through Housing for All, on the delivery of social and affordable housing and empowering and resourcing local authorities and approved housing bodies to deliver on social, affordable and cost rental housing. No other Government has given that level of commitment hitherto. There has been a marked change and it can be seen on the ground with the opening of many new housing projects throughout the country.

Like Deputy Connolly, I want to take issue with the point raised by Deputy Verona Murphy on the Office of the Planning Regulator, OPR. The OPR is very well up to speed on planning law and it was a disgraceful comment. The regulator is there to perform a very important function in terms of planning in this country, and those comments were out of order.

Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned the issue of the large urban centres. However, as we have heard all Deputies contributing this evening, this is an issue that is affecting regional towns such as Sligo, Drogheda and Wexford and throughout the country. It is not just the larger urban centres. It is something that we are committed to dealing with.

On the points raised by Deputy Cian O'Callaghan around the responsibility of Fáilte Ireland, as I said, it is a collaboration between both Departments. While the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has the lead responsibility, it is working with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in engaging on the progression of our own legislation. While Fáilte Ireland will enforce the registration of its system with the matters pertaining to planning permission, enforcement will remain the responsibility of local authorities. This is an important way forward. We have looked at other jurisdictions, particularly France, where there is a similar precedent for this type of approach. It is important to say it is a system we are basing on those of other jurisdictions. We are not relinquishing responsibility, especially around the rental market, cost rental supply and rent to buy. The Government is keenly committed to being still very much in control of how we manage these issues.

Deputy Nash raised the point that it is not the same as proactively supporting legislation. We are supporting this, and I am making positive comments in that regard. The Deputy also asked about resourcing local authorities for the implementation of existing regulations that are still in place until the new legislation comes into effect and will be part of it. The resources we have put in place, an additional €2.5 million in this year's budget, are significant. Notwithstanding that there have been challenges around under-resourcing for local authorities' enforcement, the issue of enforcement around gaining access to properties is adding to the challenges that have existed to date. We are trying to achieve the separation of genuine short-term lets for the tourism sector from speculative short-term letting where there are rent pressure zones.

While supporting Deputy Ó Broin's Bill, the Government is determined to pursue legislation that will go a long way towards trying to address these problems. We must consistently adapt and be in a position to respond continually as we see whether legislation is working in the way we hoped it would initially. I thank Deputy Ó Broin for bringing this Bill forward and for the useful debate we have had in the House on it this evening.

In the current housing supply shortage situation, which has been further exacerbated by the recent influx of citizens fleeing the war in Ukraine, increasing the supply of housing across all sectors of the housing market, be it private housing, social and affordable housing, long-term private rental housing as well as addressing vacancy, is one of the key challenges and priorities faced by Government. Every possible mechanism to increase housing supply is being examined on an ongoing basis, as is evidenced by the comprehensive suite of actions contained in Housing for All.

The long-term private rental market is a key element of the overall housing market and has been negatively impacted by a significant number of properties that have moved from the traditional long-term rental market in recent years to short-term tourism-related market letting. The 2019 legislation introduced under the planning code was an innovative measure intended to reverse this trend and influence the return of much-needed accommodation being used for short-term letting purposes in the designated rent pressure zones to the long-term private rental market, thereby increasing supply in that market and helping to stabilise rents. However, there have been some issues with the practical implementation and enforcement of the legislation, which has inhibited the achievement of its underlying objectives. The proposals contained in Deputy Ó Broin's Bill relate to the placing of restrictions on the advertising of short-term letting properties in rent pressure zones without the necessary planning permission or exemption, and the application of on-the-spot fines where the existing short-term letting provisions are not being complied with, have some merit and are constructive. We welcome constructive solutions from the Opposition. It is on this basis the Government has decided not to oppose this Private Members' Bill.

However, as was outlined by the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, earlier, and signalled in Housing for All, it is now proposed to transfer the regulation of the short-term letting sector from the planning code to its more natural home, the tourism sector, with a new registration system to be established by Fáilte Ireland and operational from early 2023. It is intended that these new arrangements will be more effective, streamlined and easier to enforce than the current arrangements, delivering on the objective of increasing housing supply in the private rental market. To this end, necessary provisions to underpin the new registration system are being progressed and the Government looks forward to the publication of the new legislative proposals in the coming months with a view to their subsequent urgent enactment.

There were 14 rental properties on one rental website in Dublin 24 this morning. Three of them were basically sheds or granny flats in the bottom of someone's garden. However, many full properties sit on short-term letting sites, taken out of the rental market during a housing crisis and little more than profiteering.

The housing market is a machine with many moving parts. That is the way I see it. The problem at present is that not many of those parts are moving anymore.

Every time Sinn Féin or others in opposition bring forward a motion or a Bill to help alleviate some of the damage Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have caused, we are told that it will not fix the housing crisis. We heard this tonight, some of it from members of the Opposition who consistently vote with Government. We accept this Bill alone will not solve the housing crisis. The vacant property tax that Sinn Féin has been calling for for years will not solve the housing crisis by itself. Just like the affordable housing motion Sinn Féin put forward to the Dáil two weeks ago, it all forms part of a solution. Rather than dismiss the Opposition out of hand, the Government might try to take on board some of what it says because right now its own attempts are simply not working. There is a general consensus, not only in these Houses but outside.

For some bizarre reason, the Government appears to many to be totally paralysed in face of the housing crisis. Maybe it simply is not particularly interested in solving it. I do not know what the problem is but there is a problem.

I listened during the week to a Fianna Fáil Senator complaining without any shred of irony about having to sleep in his car. That is the reality facing many of my constituents every day. Only it is so awful, it would be comical.

We need to ban short-term lets in rent pressure zones. We need a ban on rent increases on all existing and new tenancies. We need a Government to put money back in renters' pockets through a refundable tax credit worth a month's rent. The Government must also accept we need to see affordable cost rental delivered at scale. We need to be proactive. We need decisive action. We need to fix what is broken. The housing crisis is a multifaceted problem and we need a multifaceted approach for addressing what is clearly a housing programme that is not working and not delivering for ordinary people.

First of all, I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan's comments on supporting the Bill and his acknowledgement of the constructive solutions Sinn Féin, in particular, Deputy Ó Broin, has been bringing forward. It is a pity other members of the Government have not recognised the solutions Sinn Féin is offering. As my colleague said, on their own they will not solve the housing crisis, but together, as part of a jigsaw, they come up with a solution.

To give the Minister of State a feel for where I am coming from, in Cork city, Airbnb showed there were 1,432 entire apartments and homes for short-term let today. On Daft, there were only 76 properties between Cork city and Cork county - the biggest county in Ireland. This goes to the heart of Deputy Ó Broin's Bill to ban short-term lets. The legislation exists. What Deputy Ó Broin has tried to do is improve the legislation by taking the burden off the local authorities and putting it where it belongs, with these companies which are profiteering.

We have a housing crisis at present with 10,000 people homeless, and the Government is talking about the market solving the problem. It is talking about the Department's housing plan. Meaning no disrespect to the Minister of State, the housing plan is in tatters.

For the second week in a row at my clinic on Monday, five families came to me about notices to quit. I have heard from more than 30 families who must be out of their homes by October. I am asking the Minister of State because I have no solutions for them. There are no houses to rent in Cork, and even if people could rent them, they could not afford them. What is the Government going to do for those families? I have a woman who must be out of a house on 6 June. Her husband works full-time and she works part-time. They have two children, one of whom has a disability. Where will she go on 7 June, because they will be homeless? That is happening under this Government's watch.

Renters need a break. We have had five years now of month-on-month falling supply. It is not just landlords leaving the market as they are taking rental properties with them as they sell them. Rents have never been higher and they are now higher than they were at the very peak of the Celtic tiger and continuing to rise. We have had nine straight months of a rising rate of homelessness of adults and children. Half of the notices to quit are landlords selling and leaving the market.

It gives me no pleasure to say it but there is a reason for this and it is 11 years of failed Fine Gael housing policy in the private rental sector. It was supported for five years by Fianna Fáil and, unfortunately, notwithstanding its good policies in opposition, the Green Party is now supporting those same policies. That is the reason we are in our current difficulty.

I have said from the very start of this debate that short-term lets are not the cause of the crisis in the private rental sector, but at a time when every long-term rental unit has the potential to prevent a family with children becoming homeless, the full enforcement of regulations formulated by a former Minister and Deputy, Mr. Eoghan Murphy, is valuable at this point. We have never said it would solve the housing crisis or that the approach is a silver bullet, but at the very minimum, the regulations that exist should be enforced. I assure my colleagues from County Kerry about what they should know, which is that those regulations do not apply to areas not designated as rent pressure zones, including many of the rural areas about which they spoke. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae also posed a very important question. What is done for the workers in Dingle? If we have no rental units they can rent, who is going to staff the pubs where the tourists he wants in short-term rentals might go? He cannot have it both ways.

It is always a shame when a Minister of State who starts a row leaves the Chamber before the row can be finished, but I should at least put on the record my responses to Deputy Peter Burke. He claims Sinn Féin's proposal for a refundable tax credit to put a month's rent back in renters' pockets will drive up rents. He conveniently forgets to mention, of course, that we would combine that with a three-year ban on rent increases for all new and existing tenancies, which would make rent increases impossible. He claims our proposals for a second home tax would make the lives of single property landlords worse, but he is wrong because we would abolish the property tax, so they would be no worse off than they are under this Government.

Again, Deputy Cian O'Callaghan is correct that the Government has not introduced tenancies of indefinite duration and it is not honest to say that. The Government made a small technical change, welcome as it was, but until we remove the section 34 grounds for notices to quit, tenancies of indefinite duration do not exist in this jurisdiction. At the very least we should be upfront with people. It is incorrect for the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, to say there is not a privileging of institutional investors. The very fact they pay no tax on their rent roll and single property landlords pay a high rate of tax is evidence of that.

There seems to be a difference between what the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, has said and what the Minister of State, Deputy Burke, states. The Minister of State, Deputy Burke, very clearly said local authorities and the planning code would no longer have a role in this area. There is value in giving planning authorities a role in determining whether properties in certain areas should be in the long-term or short-term rental market. They have a housing needs and demand assessment and they understand what is needed, so they can make those judgment calls rather than just giving a blanket "yes" or "no" inside or outside rent pressure zones.

There is an argument that planning enforcement is slow, legalistic and expensive so we cannot have spot fines, but that misses the point. It is precisely because planning enforcement is so slow, legalistic and expensive that we should consider spot fines, which would be a much more effective approach, especially in cases like this. Notwithstanding all of that we will look at the Government's legislation positively when it comes forward. The one thing I have not heard from the Government is any sanction on platforms, estate agents or anybody else who facilitates and profits from the short-term letting of properties that are breaking planning law. I have concerns about this being done through Fáilte Ireland but I will discuss those at the appropriate time. Whether it is done through Fáilte Ireland or local authorities, it is not acceptable for an estate agent or a platform like Airbnb to advertise and take money from hosts who are outside the law.

More than those of anybody else, the remarks of Deputy Connolly probably summed this up in saying how ironic it is that the Opposition is bringing forward a Bill to assist the Government in enforcing its own regulations. In the spirit of co-operation I outlined at the start, I urge the Government to work with us on this and engage in the process. Let us ensure that whatever legislation is brought forward fixes the problem. Where short-term lets are appropriate for tourism reasons, let us have them. Where genuine peer-to-peer home sharing is a good idea, let us have it. Let us not, however, allow thousands of properties that should be in the owner occupation or long-term rental market to operate above the law in the short-term letting market. It is not good or lawful. We should, collectively, stamp it out.

Question put and agreed to.
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