State has ‘turned a corner’ on housing with no rental sector tax breaks before budget, says Martin

Tánaiste’s comments come after reports that some Ministers favour rental tax breaks in coming months

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that the State has “turned a corner” on housing and that there will be no changes to the tax treatment of the rental sector before the budget.

Speaking to journalists in New York on Tuesday morning where he is attending a series of events all week for St Patrick’s Day, Mr Martin said that the Cabinet has decided not to make any changes before the budget, reminding Ministers of the duty of collective Cabinet responsibility.

The Irish Times previously reported that some Ministers favour introducing tax breaks in the coming months for renters and landlords.

“There can’t be knee-jerk responses to the situation,” Mr Martin said. “Because any one measure could have unintended consequences, so it’s got to be fully fleshed through and the budget is the proper context for doing that.”


Asked about The Irish Times story, Mr Martin said: “Collective Cabinet responsibility is an imperative in all of these things. The Cabinet in the last budget took decisions in respect of taxation generally in terms of income tax relief but also in terms of tax relief for renters and, in the most recent Cabinet decisions about the cost of living, we took very specific measures and we said there would be a package in respect of the rental sector in the next budget – and that remains the position.”

Asked was he categorically ruling out any changes before the budget, Mr Martin insisted that the State had “turned the corner” on activity in the housing sector.

“The other key point I would make is the figures in the last quarter of 2022 and in the first month of January indicate that we have turned a corner in respect of house building and particularly in terms of the first-home buyers in very significant numbers,” he said. “I think up to 7,000 if not more in January alone applying for the help-to-buy scheme.”

He said that 9,000 houses [were] completed in the last quarter of 2022 and in January there were more than 2,000 commencements, the highest since records began.

“All of that indicates that there is significant activity in the housing market and we have to build more, faster,” Mr Martin said.

“Supply is the key to resolving the range of issues in relation to housing. Because it is the number one priority, it’s the number one issue facing people in the country in Ireland and we’ve got to everything possible to increase supply.”

Meanwhile, rebel Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said “concrete proposals” are needed from the Government to ensure support from the backbenches on a Sinn Féin motion on ending the eviction ban.

Sinn Féin published the text of the party’s motion on Tuesday morning, which calls for the emergency ban to be extended until the end of January next year, as well as an overhaul of existing social housing schemes and the use of emergency planning powers to build and refurbish more homes.

Ms Hourigan said the Opposition motion was “correct” in that “it was the wrong decision to end the eviction ban with so little to no contingency plans in palace to deal with the increase in homeless presentations”.

“If the Government wants to ensure the support of its backbenchers, it needs to enact concrete proposals prior to ending any eviction ban.”

Ms Hourigan did not specifically address her own voting intentions but said that concrete measures would include a proposal to “urgently bring forward a Bill next week that would protect tenants who have done nothing wrong from being evicted when their landlord wishes to sell”.

“We must remove sale as a reason for eviction before the 31st March deadline.”

Mr Martin has accused Sinn Féin of “playing politics” with the housing issue by tabling the Dáil motion for next week.

Mr Martin said the Sinn Féin’s motion was “cynical and dishonest” and insisted that the homelessness crisis would have been made worse if the Government maintained the ban.

Mr Martin said that the Sinn Féin motion would mean that evictions would resume “days after Christmas”.

“Let’s not be taken in by Sinn Féin dishonesty here. This is days after Christmas Day, Sinn Féin are saying we should lift the ban. How credible is that? Does Sinn Féin really think that would happen. Of course it would not happen,” Mr Martin told journalists in New York.

“We didn’t want to make the situation worse, because we do need more properties into the market to be available for people to rent. That’s the core rationale. I think Sinn Féin are playing politics with this. And how cynical is it that after the criticism I made last week when I mentioned that they were intending to lift the ban days after Christmas Day, they now put in a date of January 2024.

“I mean to me, that’s a very cynical and dishonest manoeuvre by Sinn Féin and it just illustrates the degree to which they’re playing politics with a very serious issue.”

Asked about instances where tenants would refuse to leave properties because they have nowhere to go, Mr Martin said: “We’ve all dealt with cases in the past where we work with local authorities, we worked with the people who were selling, and we do seek extra time to get the issue resolved. That’s not new.

“I don’t mean over-holding but I mean agreement that we will prevent and it will need that hands-on engagement over the coming while to ensure that we prevent people from going homeless.

“But above all, it’s about the long term effectiveness of the rental market. We need more people to let out their homes. We need more people coming into the market and we need to stop people exiting the market.

“And that was the fundamental rationale behind our decision not to make the situation worse, because if we make it worse one is only going to exacerbate the homeless situation over the next year.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times