Words: Ellen Kenny
Leo Varadkar believes helping landlords will help renters, but are there other ways to support renters and homeowners in the next Budget?
Yesterday, Leo Varadkar announced that he is in favour of tax cuts for landlords in Budget 2023. He argued that tax breaks will prevent landlords from selling their properties and leaving the rental market, thus giving renters homes.
It’s great that we’re all on the same page when it comes to the basic idea that people deserve homes. But think our Tánaiste could take a look at a few different ideas than making the lives of landlords easier. Especially when rent is the highest it has ever been in this country, it’s hard to be sympathetic to the plight of landlords.
Experts and advocates have recommendations in spades, and there are even works currently in progress that the next Budget can speed up to get people houses. The groundwork to provide homes in Dublin and nationwide is there. We just need to know where to put our energy.
In 2021, Dublin City Council promised that 846 new-build social homes would be completed in Dublin city in the first half of 2022. A report in July showed that 61 houses were completed. That’s seven per cent of the Council’s target.
The Council spends 72 per cent of their budget on building and developments in the city. And roughly 75 per cent of their budget comes from the Exchequer. This is the kind of development the Government can and should tackle head on. Budget 2023 could put more money into the Council for building and development, instead of the pockets of landlords.
And if we’re going to build more social housing, as well as creating more affordable rentals, we need dedicated spaces to put them.
Certain areas of Dublin city simply aren’t viable for development yet because the land prices are too high for regular construction. But the Government’s Housing for All Strategy includes plans to create Urban Development Zones. This allows local authorities in cities around Ireland to build more homes in previously inaccessible areas.
Focusing energy and funds into authorities to enable them to build in these spaces is far more productive than working to please private property owners who see a house as an investment rather than a home.
We can’t just assume that a tax cut is going to open the minds and hearts of landlords and allow them to finally treat their tenants fairly. If we’re going to cut the cost of being a landlord, they need to give more back in return.
A ban on evictions could be implemented through Budget 2023 to ensure people who have a home can stay in it. At the very least, a ban on evictions should be implemented until the rental crisis is resolved. In the second quarter of 2022, 1,781 eviction notices were served by landlords. That is more than double the amount of rental properties available in Ireland. We put a ban on evictions during the pandemic to control an emergency situation. We’re now in another emergency situation, and the solution is clear.
The Government could offer landlords a tax cut on their rental properties, if the landlords uphold a ban on evictions in return. This could be the win-win situation Leo Varadkar seems to want for renters and landlords.
A separate tax on vacant properties was proposed by this Government, and Budget 2023 should make good on that promise. The Census revealed that there are 166,000 vacant properties in Ireland, with 48,000 properties vacant for more than six years. 30 per cent of vacant properties are in Dublin alone.
When there are over 10,000 homeless people in Ireland, the Government cannot afford to let so many properties go unused. A tax on unoccupied properties will incentivise owners to put their properties back on the market and provide some much-needed homes.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has shown support for this tax. In these few weeks before the Budget is announced, we need to make sure our own support is heard, too.
Not everyone wants to live in cities, where rent and house prices soar. Some people honestly prefer smaller towns or rural living. But when Dublin is the main hub for employment in Ireland, some people have no choice but to find somewhere to live in Dublin for their jobs.
Budget 2023 should promise more frequent and faster public transport across the country. That way, people who are happy to commute to Dublin can actually do it. They can get out of a property market plagued by soaring demand and rising prices and find homes in more accessible areas. And those who want to live in the city get a better chance of finding a home themselves.
The next Budget needs to promise frequent, faster public transport in the greater Dublin area and further. Bullet trains in Japan can take people from the equivalent of Donegal to Dublin in just 45 minutes. Of course, those projects are the most expensive. But Ireland should look to other countries around the world to find some inspiration.
The next Budget is coming this September, and it needs to really consider who it should be working towards. The Budget should work from the ground up to provide people easier ways to live in Ireland, not the top down. Our priority should not be to keep landlords in the market, but to keep people in homes.
The country is full of housing potential, and Budget 2023 just needs to see that, and claim it.
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