Minister Eoghan Murphy says average house rent is at €733 a month in Portlaoise, well below the national average of €987
The Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said rent prices in Portlaoise are too low to qualify it as a Rent Pressure Zone.
Responding to a Dáil question by Laois TD Sean Fleming, the Minister cited figures showing average rent levels of €733.78 a month for housing in the Portlaoise local electoral area.
It means Portlaoise rents are too cheap to qualify as a Rent Pressure Zone, a national measure where landlords must limit annual rent increases to 4 percent for three years.
To qualify, the average rent must be higher than the national average of €987 per month.
Portlaoise does however meet the other criteria, of rents rising by more than 7 percent per quarter in the last four out of six quarters.
"This data indicates that the Local Electoral Area of Portlaoise does not meet the criteria for designation at this time. Under the Act, I have no further role or discretion in proposing areas for designation as Rent Pressure Zones or in deciding whether they should be designated. The designation process is independent and based on clear criteria and quantifiable evidence," Minister Murphy said in his Dáil reply to the Laois TD.
The data, gathered by the Residential Tenancies Board, is "flawed" says Deputy Fleming.
"This figure is totally underestimating the actual true position in Portlaoise town. Everybody knows rent for private houses has increased enormously in recent times and there needs to be a cap placed on annual rent increases. Rents are increasing in Portlaoise town at approximately 30% per annum," he said.
"The figures the Minister used are fundamentally flawed. The figures referred to by the Minister cover rent increases for the entire Portlaoise Electoral Area which includes Abbeyleix, Ballyroan, Ballinakill, Spink and Shanahoe and the true picture for Portlaoise town on its own does not show up in the Minister's statistics," he said.
He wants Portlaoise town to be measured separately from surrounding villages where rent is cheaper.
"The Minister also needs to take separate measures to ensure that there is an adequate supply of housing in the private rental market," Dep Fleming said.
Laois County Council applied for parts of Laois to be included in the zoning, last June, with no response yet to their request.
Even if parts of the county qualify, the scheme, introduced last December to ease the rental market crisis, is undergoing a complete review by the Department of Housing.