Cathie Shiels

The Workers’ Party have called on the government to introduce a compulsory rent reduction of up to 75%, to secure tenants and enable greater spending in the economy. The call comes ahead of Dáil debate in relation to tenants’ rights and the Coronavirus epidemic this evening. 

Workers’ Party representative Cathie Shiels said: 

“In Dublin, average rents have increased 40-50% since 2011. This growth has been propped up by successive governments’ total failure to build public housing, and their willingness to prop up private landlords with enormous rent subsidies. 

“This was a disastrous enough trend prior to the current crisis – but now it is essential that it is reversed, dramatically, if we are to regain control of our economy. Many banks have now announced forthcoming mortgage freezes for buy-to-let properties – but there is no clarity about whether this will even be passed on to tenants.” 

Shiels continued: 

“We are facing a period where figures of those laid off because of the crisis are already hitting half a million, with drops in income for many more. The economy is expected to contract by some 7%. 

“As ordinary workers lose their entire incomes nationwide, why should landlords continue to profit? In reality, this will only be the case if the government massively escalates HAP payments to subsidise rents currently being paid by the newly-unemployed. This is a scandalous waste of money at a time like this.” 

Shiels concluded by emphasising the economic damage that Ireland’s enormous rent bill can do to a potential recovery: 

“Dubliners spend upwards of 50% of their disposable income on rent. This is money which otherwise could be circulating in the wider economy, sustaining employment and growth. Instead, it is effectively dead money benefitting nobody but a cohort of landlords. 

“If we want to recover from the current crisis, the first step is to force a dramatic, 75% reduction in rent payments in the private sector – by tenants and by the state. If landlords wish to sell up, the state should be glad to bring those properties into the public housing stock.”