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Short-term lets creating ‘stark’ housing situation in Clare

THE housing crisis in West Clare, and elsewhere, is being worsened by short-term letting, a meeting of the Council has heard.

A motion was tabled, at the December meeting, by Councillors Cillian Murphy, Tony O’Brien, Alan O’Callaghan and Pat Hayes calling on the Minister for Finance to look at a tax policy solution to encourage a switch from short-term to long-term rental.

Outlining the situation, Councillor Cillian Murphy said that a search of Daft.ie had shown a total of 1,830 properties to rent nationwide. Of these, four were in Ennis and its environs; one in Lahinch; none in Ennistymon or Lisdoonvarna; two in Kilrush and its surrounds; none in Kilkee and six in the Shannon area.

The Fianna Fáil member contrasted that situation with short-term letting, as revealed by the ‘Inside Airbnb’ research.

“Across the whole country, there are 15,851 entire homes or apartments available for short term let on Airbnb,” he explained.

“6,420 of those are operated by hosts with multiple listings. These are not privately-owned holiday homes rented out for the off-season to get a few quid, or to cover the costs of the building. Hosts with multiple properties are operating businesses.”

Councillor Murphy described the situation in parts of West Clare as “quite stark”.

“In the Ennistymon Local Electoral Area (LEA), there are 496 entire houses or apartments available for short term let; 211 of those are operated by hosts with multiple listings,” he said.

“In Kilrush LEA, there are 199 available for short-term lets – 46 of those are operated by hosts with multiple listings. So, in West Clare alone, there are only 260 properties available for short-term let, which operated by hosts with multiple listings –  so they are business operations –  out of the 366 in the whole country.”

The Kilkee man said the impact of short-term lets is adding to the housing crisis.

“I personally know a number of families in West Clare that cannot find any rental accommodation, families with one or both parents working,” he said.

“They all have young families. They are critical to the sustainability of our schools, sports clubs, small businesses and indeed our communities. So we have many, many people who cannot access housing. But we also have many, many people who have multiple properties and are making decisions about how they rent them out, based on short term lets delivering the optimal return.”

Councillor Murphy said that rewards for long-term letting, including tax reliefs, could change the situation. 

“A behavioural nudge in this space could deliver a significant boost to the number of rental properties available to those who are in need of housing right now,” he said. 

Councillor Alan O’Callaghan agreed the lack of long-term rental properties is “a huge problem”. “Short-term seems to be the way that a lot of these landlords have gone,” he said, “and I suppose we need to do something to encourage long-term letting. We hear on a regular basis, about people looking for places to rent and just can’t get them.”

Another co-signatory of the motion, Councillor Pat Hayes said the shortage of long-terms rentals is a major issue.

“It affects an awful lot of ordinary people trying to rent places and live in the community, and particularly in our towns and villages,” he said.

He said more incentives needed to be offered to regenerate vacant properties for housing as well as rewards for long-term letting.

“I think there really needs to be a real change at national level on this issue, because it’s really affecting rural areas and towns all across the country,” he noted. 

Councillor Liam Grant said housing has been the biggest issue he encountered since he joined the Council last October. 

“It’s very frustrating for people, particularly because these homes were built for people to live and they’re being used commercially for big financial reward,” he said.

“Given we’re in a housing crisis, you’ve essentially people hoarding homes to make money. It’s just It doesn’t sit well and we need to incentivise people to move away from that.”

Councillor Joe Garrihy suggested an improved version of the rural regeneration and town and village renewal schemes. He said private investment is needed to create long-term housing.

“My mind boggles why this obvious solution with local democracy and local authorities being given the power to target town and village regeneration is not being applied,” he said.

Councillor Johnny Flynn said a recent briefing from auctioneers to the Ennis Municipal District had highlighted a drop of 30% in the number of rental properties. He said homes are now being sold off.

“What was particularly striking is the fact that if they put a property on Daft.ie, they could get 200 to 300 inquiries putting huge pressure on their offices and services,” he said.

“I took from that there is a lot of property being rented off-market with people lodging their need with a local auctioneer and Daft.ie is not showing what’s happening off-market.”

He added that new legislation requiring Airbnb operators to have planning permission should be having an impact. 

Support also came from Councillor Joe Killeen. He agreed with Councillor Hayes that tax incentives are needed to promote long-term renting. 

Councillor Pat McMahon backed the motion, saying “accidental landlords” who had bought an extra house as a pension, were now leaving the market in large numbers. 

Summing up, Councillor Murphy said the motion was not about penalising landlords or those with a holiday home for short-term lets.

“What we need to be able to say is: ‘We’re going to put something in front of you, that will incentivize you to make a different choice’,” he said. 

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