*Short-term lets sparked a debate at this month’s Council sitting. 

PROVIDERS of short-term lets should not be made “scapegoats” for the housing crisis in Ireland, Clare’s housing policy chairperson has said.

Last Monday, Clare councillors passed a motion calling on the Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin (GP) and the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien (FF) “to urgently engage with the providers of short-term lets and Airbnb’s throughout Ireland that are providing much needed support and accommodation to enhance the tourism industry that is so vital to our economy”.

Proposed by Cllr Gerry Flynn (FF) and co-signed by Cllr Rita McInerney (FF), Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG), Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF), Cllr John Crowe (FG), Cllr Michael Begley (IND) and Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) it sought a suspension of the “mandatory registration process for short-term lets “until adequate consultation and clarification is put in place in order to allay the fears, anxiety and misinformation that is bringing huge uncertainty to the providers of accommodation in this sector”.

“This confusion has been caused as a result of very little engagement from the Government Ministers in Tourism and Housing that are undermining families in Ireland that are trying to supplement their income at a time when Ireland is just recovering from the huge economic impact from Covid 19 restrictions. The proposed guidelines for short-term lets need to be suspended until proper engagement and consultation takes place to create a proper and workable policy to protect this vital support to the small tourism sector,” the motion outlined.

A one size fits all approach does not work in this instance, Cllr Garrihy advised. “The people involved have no issue with regulation. The issue is that people have been providing this service for many years, they are really concerned it will be a one size fits all approach”. He recalled that it wasn’t too long ago that tax incentives were given to people to provide short-term lets in Ireland.

Protection of the grandfather rule is necessary, Cllr O’Callaghan stated. “People love to experience coming to an area they would never have thought of before,” he said. “We need to look at the long-term view, a mandatory list that is proposed will cause problems if it is taken on face value”.

Both short-term lets and Air BnBs provide high numbers of female employment, Cllr McInerney noted. “We need to address the needs for homes, it is how it is done and the way it is done is mismatched”. Support was also voiced by Cllr Mary Howard (FG) who said she spoke with several operators locally on the matter.

“In the motion it says there is a requirement of a suspension not a banning or stopping until proper consultation is done, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” commented Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) when backing the proposal.

While acknowledging the self-catering sector’s contribution to tourism in Co Clare, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) pointed out, “I have long called for regulation of short-term letting so I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t oppose this”. He stated proposals were “clearly laid out in 2018” and “Fáilte Ireland have had more than thirty briefings so it has hardly been rushed through the system”. The Kilkee man said he was “puzzled as to how this is a significant problem”. In his view, “lack of regulation creates an unbalanced housing market”. He asked Cllr Flynn “how he can imagine the rooms we require will manage if competing with short-term lets”.

Addressing the meeting, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) admitted she has not done as much research as the proposers of the motion or Cllr Murphy, “if sufficient consultation has not been had then I must support the motion”. She added, “ramming in something to have a one size fits all doesn’t work”.

Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) also spoke against the proposal. He told the meeting he “engaged” with his namesake Cllr Murphy on the matter the morning of the meeting to get his thoughts, “he has conveyed his views adequately”.

In response, Cllr Flynn questioned “if the two Cllr Murphys are pushing for a vote because they are dissenting”. He continued, “It is only a cottage industry, I’m in housing since 1999 and I am chairing housing policy since 2004, hand on heart they are not responsible for the housing crisis and they should not be scapegoated”. The Shannon Town representative said, “Regulation is a good thing and the people are not shying away from it, it is disingenuous from people to try ram something down their throat”.

Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) said the motion was carried and informed the meeting he was in support of the proposal.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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