Fine Gael spends €4bn on private rental landlords, new figures reveal

Fianna Fail says Government's reliance on private rental market is 'unsustainable'

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Philip Ryan

Fine Gael has spent almost €4bn of taxpayers' money paying for private rental accommodation since it came to power seven years ago, new figures reveal.

Figures compiled by Fianna Fail show the last two Fine Gael-led governments have spent billions of euros on rent allowances and subsidies since taking office.

Fianna Fail's housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien said the Government's reliance on private landlords to solve the housing and homelessness crisis was "unsustainable".

"The data I have received indicates a major change in government policy; a shift away from building homes and instead pouring taxpayers' money into the private housing sector," Mr O'Brien said.

"It's pretty stark to consider that €2.5bn alone has been spent since 2011 on providing rent supplement to private landlords across Ireland."

However, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy hit back at Mr O'Brien, saying the massive spend on rental accommodation is a result of Fianna Fail outsourcing social house building to the private sector before "destroying that sector, as well as destroying the economy".

"I'm glad that they are bringing this legacy of their complete failure in government to the public's attention," Mr Murphy told the Sunday Independent.

"Though in asking the question it does make me worry - because they either don't understand how we got here or worse they want to fool the public into thinking they played no part in it. Give me a break," he added.

The Government has been criticised for its overreliance on the private rental sector to provide social housing for people who cannot afford to buy or rent homes.

The Fianna Fail figures, which were compiled from responses to parliamentary questions, show in seven years Fine Gael spent €2.5bn on rent supplements, almost €1bn on the rent assistance scheme (RAS) and €226m on the housing assistance payment scheme (HAP). A further €291m has been allocated to lease properties under the social housing current expenditure programme.

There are more than 36,150 households in receipt of HAP and more than 21,000 separate landlords and agents providing accommodation to households under the scheme. The HAP scheme was introduced in 2014 to replace rent allowance on a phased basis. There are still 31,000 people in receipt of rent allowance.

Last year, it was estimated the Government will spend €3bn in five years.

Analysis of the Dail declaration of interests shows one fifth of TDs has rental properties. The biggest landlord in the Dail is Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae with 10 rental properties in Kerry and Tipperary.

The 29 other landlords include Tanaiste Simon Coveney, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe and Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Five more Fine Gael TDs listed investment properties or rental incomes among their declared interests or said they are landlords. Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell has five investment properties. The list also includes Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail, 12 other Fianna Fail TDs, Labour TD Alan Kelly and four more Independent TDs including former minister Sean Canney, who has four letting properties.

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