I thank the Senator for raising this important matter. I have been in the House to address the matter, which I know is dear to his heart, on at least five occasions to date. He is correct that short-term letting affects supply. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is focused on addressing the issue as quickly as possible.
I welcome the opportunity to outline the progress the Government has made to date regarding short-term lettings and to outline the plans to bring forward further legislation in this area. Under action 18 of the strategy for the rental sector, my Department established a working group comprising representatives of all Departments and agencies with a policy interest in short-term lettings to develop guidance on planning applications and changes of use relating to short-term lettings and to examine the need for new regulatory arrangements. The proposals considered by the working group, which met on six occasions, were aimed at facilitating short-term letting of accommodation within permanent residences, known as home-sharing, while seeking to protect the existing stock of residential property in areas of high demand, safeguarding neighbourhood amenity and consumer protection and generating revenue to address any negative externalities of short-term letting. The working group completed guidance for local authorities on planning applications relating to short-term lettings and my Department issued a circular on the matter this time last year. The group has since been focused on developing proposals for an appropriate comprehensive regulatory approach for short-term tourism-related lettings.
Having considered the group’s report, as well as the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee’s report on short-term lettings, the Minister and I are currently engaging with relevant Ministers on the appropriate next steps in taking the proposed regulatory regime forward. Among the options under consideration is the development of a new licensing regime for short-term letting platforms and homeowners who rent out rooms or entire properties to tourists to facilitate a more managed approach to short-term tourist lettings, and thus protect the existing stock of residential property, in particular, long-term rental accommodation, in areas of high demand, which, again, was rightly referred to by the Senator. He also gave some good examples of areas where this provision is being abused.
Recognising that the introduction of such a regulatory regime will take time, the Minister and I are also considering what other measures might, in the interim, support the recommendations and objectives set down in the working group’s report and the Oireachtas committee’s report. I understand that the Minister intends to set out his proposed actions, including specific reforms to relevant legislation, in the near future to address the issues raised in these reports. I am sure Senators will understand that I am not in a position to elaborate further at this time. However, once these proposals are announced, I expect there will be opportunities for both Houses to consider and discuss them in advance of their coming into effect. I can give the Senator a commitment that the Minister and I will be available to come to the House for that debate.
In regard to the timeline issue, the Minister has on a number of occasions tried to prioritise the regulations but it is a complicated legal process. When he appeared before the committee towards the end of September last, he said that the regulations would be published in a week's time. It was hoped to have this done before the budget but owing to a legal issue, publication was delayed. The regulations are almost complete and the Minister hopes to be in a position to announce the changes in the next week or two. It is hoped he will be in a position to announce them this week but it may be the next week or two. It will not be done tomorrow, but it will be done soon. I am confident in that I will be back in the House soon to debate the changes. It was genuinely the Minister's desire to do this prior to budget week but the events of the budget took over. Hopefully, the Minister or I will be in the Seanad next week to discuss the new arrangements.