A crucial provision of this Bill is the introduction of indefinite tenure for Part 4 tenancies, which is a Green Party policy and a commitment we secured in the Programme for Government, and one which the Minister and my colleagues in government have supported.
Having said this, however, in a recent discussion with Father Peter McVerry, he had a clear and frank message for us legislators, which is that we have to be far more radical than we are to solve this crisis. That we have to value housing as a fundamental right, like the right to education, and healthcare. I look forward to the progress on the referendum on the Right to Housing, which I know is a commitment that the Green Party and my government colleagues support and will work together to achieve.
I am however concerned, Minister, about the fact that the referendum is the 9th and last point in the Terms of Reference of the Commission which suggests the lowest priority. I’d urge Minister Burke to raise this with the Minister and to see that it is one of the first, if not the very first priority of the Commission considering its significance and the time it takes to progress.
Going back to this Bill, Minister I believe there are a number of amendments that could strengthen the provisions of the Bill, including a very minor amendment but a significant step to ensure that the relevant local authority, as well as the RTB are informed of the termination notice to tenants. This ensures early interventions if there is a risk of homelessness, and is an amendment supported by the Simon Community, which I therefore strongly urge the Minister to consider.
Another amendment we, in the Green Party, feel ties into homelessness prevention and strengthens rental protection is introducing a 90-day notice period when a landlord ends a tenancy of less than 6 months.
Thirdly, it’s critical we end sale as a reason to end a lease, similar to the protection of leases in commercial properties and other jurisdictions. Very simply, leases need to be secured and tenants need to be protected. Where this is not met in this legislation, we intend pursuing how it can be introduced in Ireland at some stage going forward.
Finally, Minister, I’d like to raise with you a quick solution to stabilise the rental market and to reduce rents, as well as the state’s expenditure and reliance on HAP, by introducing a temporary tax suspension on rental income to reduce rents. Landlords are typically paying about 40% on rental income, which the state could instead suspend and reduce rents by that same percentage.
Not only does this reduce the exorbitant rents which are crippling families without impacting the landlord’s income, but it also saves the state a lot of money that otherwise would be paid to the private market on HAP.
As a footnote: This Government through Green Party Policy has legislated for Cost-rental, the rent is based on the construction cost, up to 50% lower than market rents and we have moved this model from 50 units to 2000 per year and that is a starting point for the establishment of this affordable housing model