"We've neglected the rental market for decades" – housing expert Lorcan Sirr

The Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer is in favour of the Berlinesque approach Simon Coveney should unveil later today...

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Ahead of Housing Minister Simon Coveney unveiling his proposals to introduce rent caps in "pressure zones" before Cabinet this afternoon, DIT's housing expert Lorcan Sirr told Newstalk Breakfast that he approved of the suggested 4% annual limit on rent increases but noted that there was a lot more that should be done to solve the renting problem.

"The minister intends to cover Dublin and Cork," Sirr explained, "which is quite an interesting move if it happens immediately. That would be quite a significant move because the large urban areas are where all the action happens really – and 'action' I mean in a negative sense...

"Essentially it means that rent won't go up by more than 12% over a three year period. Now my contention has always been... I like the idea of what they do in places like Berlin, where when you enter a lease, you know that your rent won't go up by more than 15% over the following three years. This is actually slightly less than that, so it is slightly more progressive."

Sirr also allayed fears that the majority of landlords would move to hike rents before the cap is introduced.

"They can only do that when a rent review is due and currently that's every two years.  So if your rent is due today, tough luck. But that's going to be very, very few people."

He did, however, foresee stumbling blocks for Coveney.

"One of the obstacles is going to be... the Department of Finance, I suspect, who are very cagey about all of this kind of controlling or intervening in the market, despite the fact we intervene in the market, left, right and centre.

"And the other one is your Cabinet colleagues. Fine Gael wouldn't be a party that are seen to be incredibly pro-tenant. [They are] very pro-landlord. So no matter what he wanted to do, I suspect he would have come up against opposition there."

Turning to the problem of unused homes in Ireland, he said:

"We have about 36,000 empty houses in Dublin city alone and there's about 198,000 across the country.

"The problem with that is we don't actually know why the houses are empty, and this is a real issue.
We've also a huge number – about 30,000 – of derelict houses around the country, which are separate again. They are unusable.

"It's a good move to get to the bottom of why homes are vacant. We have to remember all housing policy in Ireland is designed around home ownership, essentially. This is why we've neglected the rental market for decades."

"Things like this 'Fair Deal' scheme [which provides financial support for people who need long-term nursing care], I mean, these are pensions. Our pension system is designed so that when you're 65, you will have no debt.
You will be mortgage-free, so you can live on half your salary. This is why we only give mortgages up to 65 in Ireland. So anything that could look at all that would be welcomed."

He also called for a greater emphasis to be placed on inspections of rented properties.

"Only about 10% of properties get inspected in Ireland. That should be 60-70%."