Rent rise cap to be sought for Laois as rents spiral and housing shortage worsens

Spiraling rents and a housing crises have forced Laois County Council to take the first step of having rent caps enforced in the county.

In a presentation to be made to Laois County Councillors next week, Mr Gerry Murphy, the council's Head of finance and housing, outlines the case for the county to be added to Rent Pressure Zones.

The council's management need the goahead of councillors to ask the Minister for Housing and Local Government Eoghan Murphy to cap rent increases by landlords.  

Rent Pressure Zones limit rent increase in a particular area to just 4%. To benefit some criteria must be met. Firstly,  the annual rate of rent increase for the area must be more than 7% on average in four of the last six quarters.

A table produced by Mr Murphy shows that rents in Laois rose by double digits in the last nine quarters running to the start of 2015.

In his report Mr Murphy says that rental increases in each quarter over the past two years have "consistently exceeded" 10%. His figures show that the last two quarters have put Laois in the top three counties, outside the rent pressure zones, for increase. He says there was a 16.6 increase for the first three months of 2017.

Read more below table

Monthly rents are now more than 50% higher than the trough in 2011, according to the report. 

Mr Murphy also points to 'locally generated information' which shows greater rent increases in Portlaoise, Portarlington and Mountmellick. Evidence found by the council shows that rent rose by 18.6 for two and four bedroom houses year on year.

While the council says it can be 'clearly demonstrated' that the first criteria is 'fully satisfied', he acknowledged that the average cost of renting in Laois is below the €986 per month nationally.

A second criteria for a cap is that, the average rent for tenancies must be above the average national rent. However, Mr Murphy says mitigating factors must be taken in considered.

He says these include a relatively low level of household income and local evidence of family income stress and a 'critical shortage' of affordable accommodation.

"It is therefore concluded that there is a compelling case for Rent Pressure Zones to be established in a number of areas in Laois and it is recommended that Laois County Council makes a formal request to the Housing Agency and the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in this regard," concludes the report.

If the Minister for Housing agrees, the Residential Tenancies Board must carry out an analysis of the rental data to assess whether or not the area meets the criteria.

If the area meets the criteria, a Rent Zone Report will be prepared for Minister Murphy confirming that the criteria for the proposed area is satisfied.

The Minister can then order that an area be declared a Rent Pressure Zone for a specified period not exceeding 3 years.

Naas and Newbridge in Co Kildare are classed as Rent Pressure Zones.

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