Focus Ireland has called for more urgent Government action to tackle rocketing rents as the new Daft report shows rents have shot up to a new all-time record of €1,200 per month, with rents increasing for 21 consecutive quarters. The charity warned that, despite the Strategy for the Rental Sector published 12 months ago, Government action to address the rental crisis has had very limited impact so far.

Focus Ireland Advocacy Director Mike Allen said: “The DAFT report clearly show that actions the Government has taken – such as Rent Pressure Zones – have not been implemented effectively.  Rents nationwide have now reached an all-time record of an average of €1200 and rents in some parts of Dublin have now risen by 90% from their lowest levels in 2011. While the Rent Pressure Zones have helped curtail rent increases for some sitting tenants there are so many loopholes in the legislation it is still far too easy for landlords to ignore.”

He took issue with the author of the report, Ronan Lyons, concerning whether rent controls are likely to make things worse. “The report is correct arguing that the long-term solution is more housing supply, and that rent controls only tackle the symptoms not the causes. However, there are some symptoms which you need to get under control so that the patient can survive and then recover. Massive rent increases are like a fever that needs to be controlled if we are not to see thousands of families, including those on decent wages, forced out of their homes. Rent Pressure Zones are failing not because they are a bad idea, but because of the failure of effective implementation.”

He explained: “There is no monitoring to check if landlords are abiding by the 4% rent increase cap when one tenant leaves and a new tenant signs a new lease. It seems these rules are being widely ignored. There is nothing to stop landlords claiming that they will sell up and evict their tenants in order to push rents up ”  Focus Ireland has called for effective monitoring and penalties to be put in place to punish any landlords that are caught breaking the rent cap in a rent pressure zone.

The DAFT report also found a continuing drop in the number of units available, down 16% from last year. Yet of the 11 Actions in ‘Strategy for the Rental Sector’ designed to boost supply virtually none has been implemented (Actions 9 – 19). We have seen no action on tax, on provision of sites, on investment, planning or cost rental models. Action on short-term holiday lets and student accommodation are welcome.

Focus Ireland also said that is not helpful that the full review of Rebuilding Ireland – which was meant to be concluded in September – is now not to be published.  Minister Murphy has recently changed his position and said that his department will make a number of announcements in the coming months instead of publishing a full review of the Government strategy as had been originally expected.

Mr. Allen said: “We are calling on the Minister to publish the full review of Rebuilding Ireland. We need a coherent and comprehensive approach, not just a series of press statements, comments and leaks. The strategy  must include immediate and effective actions to ease the rental crisis, boost building and also get more vacant homes back into the housing stock.  It must include a clear strategy setting out how the Government will respond to  the particular problems facing homeless families. The Government has been saying that Homeless Family Hubs are a ‘first response’, it is high time they let us know what the solution will be and when it will be delivered.”

“This must be a key part in addressing the terrible crisis and would be far better use of time than some of the media spin the Government has attempted to try and play down the housing and homelessness crisis in recent days.”

Focus Ireland said that the review of Rebuilding Ireland is a real chance to improve access to housing by introducing more incentives for people to rent out empty houses and to stop developers hoarding building land by having penalties for those who do so.  It must also take action to help increase more targetted prevention.

Mr. Allen said: “Our frontline staff are still dealing with people who have become homeless from the rental sector as rents have been hiked up and they can’t afford them.  There needs to be a much wider range of Government actions taken to keep protecting tenants and keep them in their homes.”

Contact Roughan Mac Namara at 086 85 15 117 or Alan Neary at 086 4680 442

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