Minister may replace rent-pressure-zones with new protections

Darragh O’Brien says broader protections for rental market being considered

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien  said the system of rent pressure zones may be replaced. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien said the system of rent pressure zones may be replaced. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Rent pressure zones could be replaced with broader protections for the whole market under new plans being considered by the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.

The existing system of rent-pressure zones, which are designated areas where rents cannot be increased by more than 4 per cent per annum, is due to expire at the end of 2021.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr O’Brien said he and a team of officials have begun work on a possible system to replace the pressure zones.

“One of the things with the rent pressure zones is that, while they work to a degree, in setting the 4 per cent increase rate, 4 per cent nearly became a target for landlords. Most people haven’t got 4 per cent increases in salary. So rents are still too expensive in most parts of the country now.

“We’re actually looking now at what potentially would replace them.

“I think broader market protections for the whole rental market is something that’s desirable for me. I want to see whether we can do that. In other countries, if you take for example Germany, rent increases are linked to the CPI [consumer price index]. So there are things like that that you would look at.

“The market is sensitively balanced, we’ve lost thousands of landlords, so we want to make sure that any measures brought forward or agreed are proportionate. But I don’t think it is any harm that there is some certainty around what rent looks like. That’s good for both tenants and indeed for the landlord.

“This is work that is being done within my own department without collaborating with anyone else, it is at an initial stage,” he said.

Mr O’Brien has pledged that renters will not be left in a “cliff-edge” scenario in April 2021 when the temporary Covid-19 ban on evictions and rent freeze are due to end.

On the provision of supports for homeless people over the coming months, Mr O’Brien has said that plans are underway to expand the “housing first” scheme.

That model aims to provide a person sleeping rough, or someone who has been long-term homeless, with their own secure accommodation, as well as access to intensive and specialised support services.

The Fianna Fáil TD has also said that there will be an increased focus on finding accommodation for single people who are homeless.

This will partially be done through the conversion of older buildings. Mr O’Brien said he is conducting a tour of local authorities and is asking them to focus on single adults who are homeless, as they make up 73 per cent of that group, because “we don’t have enough of accommodation to meet that”.

“If we get more homes built and more public homes delivered, we can give proper exits for people out of homelessness.”

Asked about Fianna Fáil’s recent slump in the polls, Mr O’Brien said “we would have liked to have done better but we came through as the largest party in Government, we are the largest party in local government, and I can tell you from the response that I get around the place and I’ve been travelling around the country, our party is in good shape. Would you love to be 30 per cent in the polls, yes, but what does it mean? The general election and local elections are four years away.”