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Rental properties now freed up could be used to house refugees 

Rental properties freed up by new planning requirements on short term lets could be used to house Ukrainian refugees. 

The regulations apply specifically to properties located in rent pressures zones and come into effect on September 1. The new legislation on short term lets is designed to bring more homes back into to the long-term rental market.

Rental properties will require specific planning permission to be used for tourism and short term lets and planning authorities can take legal action if a property is found not to have the required permission.

Non-compliance with the new regulations will become an offence with fines of up to €5000, six months in prison, or both.

The legislation is part of the Planning and Development, Maritime and Valuation (Amendment) Bill 2022, which passed both houses of the Oireachtas before the summer recess last week.

From September, online platforms will not be able to advertise properties that do not have the required planning permission.

“Non-compliance with these provisions will be an offence for both the individual property owners concerned and the online platforms,” according to the Department for Housing.

The fines will apply for each individual case, so for a person with a number of properties who is not in compliance, the applicable penalties will be cumulative.

A spokesperson for the Housing Department said it will be up to accommodation providers to decide whether to enter into a contract to provide accommodation for refugees.

“Primary responsibility for securing accommodation for persons fleeing the war in the Ukraine rests with the Department  for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Minister O’Gorman.

“It is a matter for individual accommodation providers whether or not they contract with Minister O’Gorman’s Department for provision of such services and for the duration of any such contracts,” the spokesman said.

The regulatory controls will remain in place for a period of six months initially, according to the department.

During that six month phase, a new host register will be established by the Department of Tourism alongside Fáilte Ireland. The register will ensure that only hosts with a registration number are able to publish listings on the platform.

“Government are acutely aware of the pressures on the rental market at present and we expect that these new and significant controls will help to ease that pressure,” Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said.

“With significant numbers of properties having been withdrawn from the long-term rental market in recent years and diverted for use as short-term lettings, the impact on the supply and availability of private residential rental accommodation with associated knock-on implications for rental prices has been keenly felt by many,” the Minister said.

Airbnb announced last month that it has set aside $500m to house Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.

The company has been in discussion with government since last March regarding the provision of accommodation for Ukrainian arrivals to Ireland.

In a policy document issued by Airbnb in June, the company said it was committed to helping the Irish government enforce new rules to ‘help make home sharing part of the solution to the challenges facing everyday families in Ireland.’

The Airbnb Community Tourism and Housing Protection Plan allows Airbnb ‘pursue a community tourism approach in Ireland that flexibly boosts the supply of tourist accommodation at peak moments of demand,’ the company said.

The plan, formally launched by Amanda Cupples, General Manager for Northern Europe at Airbnb, includes funding for Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.

“As Irish families battle rising living costs and a housing shortage, we want to work with the government to unlock new economic opportunities, help enforce the rules and play our part in protecting housing,” Ms Cupples said.

The system is already up and running around Europe, where more than 42,600 refugees from Ukraine have been connected to free or temporary housing. These stays are funded ‘by Airbnb, donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, and the generosity of Hosts through Airbnb.org’, the company says.

In Ireland, the government and Airbnb is working with The Open Community regarding the provision of temporary accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.

An Airbnb host survey found that 35% of Airbnb hosts in Ireland say they rely on the extra income in order to make ends meet, while more than half say the earnings from hosting have helped them cover the rising cost of living.

Some 70% of Airbnb hosts in Ireland are female.

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