Murphy: 'If people don't like the idea of co-living, they don't have to live there'


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.46 27 Jan 2020


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The Housing Minister has defended co-living developments - insisting they're "very different" to bedsits.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show today as election campaigning continues, Eoghan Murphy defended his Government's record on housing.

Murphy: 'If people don't like the idea of co-living, they don't have to live there'

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He said he doesn't feel like he has been personally blamed for the problems with housing.

He acknowledged that there have been many challenges in relation to the State's role in housing, which he suggested has faced "structural and systemic" problems for decades.

One of the most controversial aspects of recent housing policy has been the emergence of so-called 'co-living' developments.

Such developments see tenants given a private room, but they must share a kitchen with potentially dozens of others.

Critics here have warned co-living offers a low standard of living, and also claimed that it is often not a cheaper alternative to traditional rental properties.

Such developments have also faced challenges when it comes to planning - with some applications rejected and other developers forced to make changes such as having to include cooking hobs in rooms.

Speaking today, Minister Murphy said: "If people don't like the idea of co-living - and I understand a lot of people don't, because it's not for most people - then they don't have to live there.

"It's not our solution to the housing crisis... more than 20,000 new homes and apartments were built last year, none of them for co-living."

Questioned on whether the idea is similar to bedsits - which are now banned - he added: "In a bedsit you didn't have your own bathroom and things like that - this is very different.

"There'll be another 25,000 [homes and apartments] built this year - I don't know if any of them will be for co-living, based on the applications that have been rejected."

HAP

The use of Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) to help tenants cover the cost of renting has been blamed by some commentators for driving up rents.

Today, Minister Murphy acknowledged his Government has relied on it too much in the past - but insisted the situation has changed.

He said: "HAP, unfortunately, was necessary, because a previous government had basically taken the responsibility for social housing away from the State and given it to the private sector - and we needed to make sure we could house people somewhere until their homes were being built.

"We've relied on it too much, but that's changed now... because we've increased the number of social housing homes being built.

"At the end of 2021, we'll be housing more people to new homes that we've built than we will be through things like HAP."

He added: "If we go back to 2010, for all the public money we were spending on housing... around €1 in €2 was going on the private rental sector. Now it's €1 in €3.

"We have come off that dependency on the private rental sector - and we need to move off it more."

Talking about improving the standards at some of the housing being made available for rental, he acknowledged there are cases when the quality isn't up to scratch.

He argued: "How do we tackle it? We put in place rent controls, and we hire people to go out and enforce them.

"This year, between 35,000-40,000 rental apartments and homes will be inspected for quality, but also for the rent books... so we can now start to tackle people who are starting to get outside of their obligations."

Minister Murphy also argued that there's now a need for an independent regulator in the sector to protect the rights of both tenants and landlords.


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