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Two more areas become Rent Pressure Zones as rent prices continue to rise

Limerick City East and Navan met the designation criteria within the latest Residential Tenancies Board report.

Image: Mark Stedman via RollingNews.ie

TWO NEW AREAS of the country have now met the criteria to become Rent Pressure Zones (RPZs). 

This comes as the latest rent index report from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) is released, which finds that the standardised national average rent is over €1,100 per month. 

From October to December 2018 (Q4), the standardised national average rent was €1,134 per month, according to the RTB. That’s up from €1,061 one year earlier.

Rental price inflation dropped from 2.3% in Q3 2018, down to 0.3% in Q4. This marks the first quarter since Q1 2017 that the standardised average rent has fallen relative to the previous quarter. The figures are included in the RTB’s Quarter 4 2018 Rent Index report which was published today.

The report is compiled in conjunction with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and is based on 17,830 tenancies registered with the RTB in the same quarter.

New rent pressure zones

Based on the rental data from the latest report, two additional local electoral areas meet the designation criteria for rent pressure zones (RPZs) – Navan in Co Meath and Limerick City East. 

The RTB has confirmed to the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy that these two areas meet RPZ criteria. 

Minister Murphy said: “Navan and Limerick City East have met the criteria to be designated RPZs and that change has come into effect immediately.” 

Rent Pressure Zone (RPZ) laws were first introduced in December 2016 by then-Housing Minister Simon Coveney in order to tackle spiralling rents.

Under the legislation, annual rent rises are capped at 4% in certain areas.

RPZs are located in areas of the country where rents are highest and where households have the greatest difficulty finding affordable accommodation. 

It is worth noting that under the current laws, a landlord can evict a tenant and raise the rent above the limits if substantial refurbishment is carried out on the property.

Properties within RPZs are also exempt from the 4% restriction if they have not been let at any time in the previous two years. 

3804 Eoghan Murphy_90557598 (2) Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Commenting on the report, RTB Director Rosalind Carroll said today: “The rent index has now provided us with important data that enables a decision to be taken on designating two new rent pressure zones to be set for the local electoral areas of Limerick City East and Navan. 

These are the first rent pressure zones to be designated since September 2017. This is important for landlords and tenants as it means that rents in these local electoral areas will be limited to rises of a maximum of 4% annually.

Criticism

Reacting to the report, the Simon Communities of Ireland noted the extension of RPZs to Navan and Limerick East, but said that the continuing inaccessibility of the rental sector is both pushing people into homelessness and preventing people from leaving homelessness behind.

The charity added that the implementation of many of the proposals included in the residential Tenancies Bill 2018 must now be prioritised. 

“All options need to be considered in addressing this crisis, and for that reason the Simon Communities of Ireland urge the implementation as a priority of many of the proposals included in the new amended Residential Tenancies Bill 2018, currently under consideration in the Dáil,” Paul Sheehan, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities said. 

“The proposed amendments need to be expedited through the Oireachtas in order for them to be implemented.”

Sheehan added that RPZs provided for in existing legislation “need to be properly monitored and continuously enforced by the Residential Tenancies Board”. 

The laws surrounding RPZs have come in for criticism in recent months

In November, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD said: “Rent Pressure Zones are clearly not working for new entrants to the rental market or people who have to move. 

The Rent Pressure Zone legislation is failing new entrants to the rental market. Asking for new lets are very clearly circumventing the 4% cap and this is adding to the housing affordability crisis. 

Ó Broin called for an immediate three-year rent freeze to be introduced, alongside tax reliefs for tenants, as he said “the time for a measured response to this crisis has long passed”. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie last night, Ó Broin reiterated his stance, stating: “Rent pressure zones aren’t working in the areas they are currently being applied and, therefore, we need more than the extension of rent pressure zones. We urgently need a rent freeze across the State.” 

1398 Eoin O Broin_90553706 (1) Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Echoing the words of Ó Broin, Labour’s housing spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan TD said that RPZs are “clearly not working”. 

Similarly, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said that an emergency rent freeze is the only way to address the rising rent issue. 

“There is no way that ordinary workers, people with families and young people can continue to pay rents at these astronomical levels,” Murphy said. 

In April, Murphy announced proposed new measures that would form part of the new Residential Tenancies Bill. 

Among these is a planned law making it an offence for landlords with properties in RPZs to raise the rent above the legally allowed 4%.

In a statement today, Murphy said “there is no doubt that rents are still too high in many areas, however, this is the first decrease in two years when RPZs first came into force”. 

“They are working, but I will be bringing further rental reforms to Cabinet next week.” 

Rental prices

Returning to look at the RTB rent index published today, it found that Dublin rental market continued to be the largest in the country in Q4 2018. 

The city accounted for nearly two in five new tenancies that were registered with the RTB. 

The standardised average rent in Dublin stood at €1,650, up from €1,530 one year earlier. This represents a 7.8% annual increase in rent in the capital. 

However, the standard average rent was slightly lower in Q4 compared to Q3, dropping from €1,663 to €1,650. 

Elsewhere in the country, the second highest standardised average rents in Q4 2018 were in Cork city at €1,095 per month. 

Galway city’s standardised average rents stood at €1,064 for Q4 2018. Meanwhile, rents in Limerick city were €929 and rents in Waterford city were €682. 

In the Greater Dublin Area (GDA, excluding Dublin), standardised average rent stood at €1,167, up from €1,108 on the previous year. 

The quarter-on-quarter growth rate in the GDA was 0.7% in Q4 2018. On a year-on-year basis, GDA rents were up 5.3%. 

The standardised average rent for outside the GDA stood at €833 in Q4 2018, up from €789 the previous year. 

Last night, the homeless emergency accommodation figures for February were published, which show that there are now more than 10,000 people in Ireland officially living in emergency accommodation. 

The figures show that there are now a combined total of 10,264 people homeless and living in emergency accommodation in Ireland, a significant rise of 277 people from January.

The numbers taken over the course of one week in February show that there were 6,480 adults and 3,784 homeless children living in emergency accommodation in the State. 

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