Latest: Taoiseach faces down criticism of rent figures in Ireland

Update 5.01pm: The Taoiseach has faced down criticism in the Dáil over the latest figures on the cost of renting in Ireland.

A Residential Tenancies Board survey shows the average rent nationwide stands at €1,054.

Dublin is still the most expensive area of the country to rent property, with an average cost of just over €1500.

In the Dáil, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou Mc Donald labelled the figures 'scandalous'.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insists the rate of increase in rents is slowing.

"These figures which show in Dublin the lowest annual rate of increase since 2013," said Mr Varadkar.

"I certainly haven't been able to sing this song before, Ceann Comhrala, because it's four to five years since it would be possible to make that statement.

"Notwithstanding that, the Government is acting. We've already introduced the rent pressure zones - most tenants are covered by those rent pressure zones - and they ensure that, except for some exceptional circumstances, rents increases are now lower than 4%."

Update 1.30pm: McDonald says national average rent figure is "cause of shame"

The Taoiseach insists that rent pressure zones are working as new figures show the average rent nationwide, for new tenancies, now stands at €1,054.

While in Dublin it is just over €1,500 according to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar oulined what he took from today's RTB report.

"The market is beginning to stabilise. What people are willing and able to pay is now much closer to what landlords are able to charge," he said.

"It shows that the rent pressure zones are starting to work as well because, of course, these are new tenancies and for new tenancies rents have increased by 6.4% in the last year and that rate is slowing.

"And for those with existing tenancies, the rate of increase - with some exceptions - is 4% or less."

However, Mary Lou McDonald says the rates are unaffordable for working families.

She called the current average national rent "a cause of shame and disgrace".

"It is unaffordable for working families. People at work, Taoiseach, who get up very early in the morning, who work very hard and who have the modest aspiration of a secure roof over their head."

Earlier: National average rent tops €1,000 a month, according to latest figures

The latest figures from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) show the average price around the country is €1,054.

Dublin is still the most expensive area at just over €1,500 a month, but there has been a slow down in the rate of increase.

Rents across the country grew by 6.4 per cent in the last three months of 2017 - Rosalind Carroll of the RTB, says it is headed in the right direction.

“The continued strong economic and demographic growth combined with restricted supply continues to put pressure on the rental market and those seeking a place to live," said Ms Carroll.

"We see that, in the 6.4% annual increase in new rents to the end of Q4 2017. However, this rate of increase has slowed from the previous quarter and the last time the annual growth rate in new rents was below this level was in Q1 2014.

The report shows that in the Dublin rental market rents continue to increase (from €1,494 in Q3 to €1,511), however, the quarter on quarter growth rate at 1.1% has slowed compared to the previous quarters.

"Within the figures published today we can see some sense of the pressure on rents in Dublin rippling out to the wider GDA while outside the GDA new rents actually fell in Q4”.

Speaking about the rent figures in Cork for the final quarter of 2017, Ms Carroll said: "The average rent there now is just over €1,083 but in the quarter itself rent has has gone down -4% in that particular quarter.

"So we looked at this time last year, it would have been €1,029 and it's gone up from there but just within the particular quarter it has actually gone down from €1,130 in the last quarter to €1,083 in this quarter."

Digital Desk

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