Rent strategy plan doesn’t go far enough says housing charities

Niam Randall of Simon Communities, left,and Mike Allen of Focus Ireland.

Housing charities have welcomed the publication of the Government’s new strategy for the rental sector but said it did not go far enough, with some pushing for the rent pressure zones to be quickly extended beyond Dublin and Cork.

However, the body which represents private landlords said the new measures signalled “the death knell of the private rental sector” and warned that it could prompt many landlords, and particularly those with properties in the areas affected by the rent pressure zones, to walk away.

Among those giving a guarded welcome to the Government’s plan was the Simon Communities in Ireland. Its national spokesperson, Niamh Randall, said she welcomed rent predictability limits in Cork and Dublin but warned that other parts of the country could not afford to be ignored.

“Rent predictability in Dublin and Cork are very much welcomed and the minister’s determination to limit rents in these areas must be acknowledged,” she said. “However, rents have been increasing continuously right around the country. Third-quarter 2016 average rent increases included 13.2% in Limerick, 15.8% in Meath, 13.6% in Portlaoise, 13.4% in Kildare, 15.2% in Louth and our concern is rents will continue to increase at these rates, placing people under huge pressure and pushing some people out of their homes.”

Ms Randall said there was particular concern for people at the lower end of the market, many of whom are dependent on rent supplement/housing assistance payments, and she said those state payments must keep pace with market rents.

Threshold also welcomed the publication of the strategy but echoed the view that other areas, such as the greater Cork City area, Galway City and in the commuter counties around Dublin, should also be included in rent pressure zones.

Focus Ireland said it was worried that the rent control seems to only apply to existing tenancies which could see landlords shift all the price pressure to new leases.

Its director of advocacy, Mike Allen, said the problem could have been avoided by including “re-lets” in the proposed legislation, which would have improved access to the rental market.

However, the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) said 40,000 landlords had left the sector in the past four years and others were likely to follow.

“If it’s unattractive, landlords leave, then there’s less accommodation,” said an IPOA spokesperson.

IPOA chairman Stephen Faughnan said: “Short-term interference causes long-term difficulties undermining the confidence of prospective investors.”

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