Guarded welcome for rent controls from housing charities

Threshold and Simon Communities: rents should be linked to consumer price index


Housing charities have given a guarded welcome to the Government’s rent control package, but warned more needs to be done to help those most vulnerable to price fluctuations.

Aideen Hayden, chairwoman of Threshold, said the measures would go “a long way” to providing some security to tenants in the private rented sector.

However, she said a more comprehensive strategy for the sector was needed, including linking rents to the consumer price index, a called that was echoed by Niamh Randall, spokeswoman for the Simon Communities.

“Without linking rents in the private sector to an index like the CPI there is still nothing to stop rents continuing to increase, especially at a time when the number of properties available to rent is at an all-time low,” said Ms Randall.

“We are now calling on the Government to ensure quick introduction of the legislative changes needed to allow for biannual rent increase so as to prevent a massive rent hike on foot of the announcements.”

Rent supplement

Focus Ireland said while some elements of the package were welcome, it would “fail to protect some of the most vulnerable households”, and an increase in rent supplement was needed.

“These vulnerable households need an increase in rent supplement to keep them in their current homes,” said Mike Allen, director of advocacy.

“This is a vital point. Increasing housing supply is crucial, but for the 70 families which are at risk of becoming next month’s homeless statistics, we don’t have to actually deliver or create any new housing,” he said.

“We need firm action by the Government to keep them in [their] homes.”

Greater protection was also need for tenants living in buy-to-lets. There are more than 30,000 such tenants who are more than 12 months in arrears, Mr Allen said.

‘Ongoing concerns’

“The Government needs to improve the rights of these tenants and fast-track measures to force lending institutions to treat these tenancies as ‘ongoing concerns’ so the sitting tenants keep their homes and do not become homeless,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Barry Cowen said he was concerned the legislation would not be in place by the end of the month.

He said this would allow landlords a window of opportunity to increase rents for tenants.

Mr Cowen said it was disappointing the proposals had taken so long to materialise, adding that it was a shame that only the sight of an election could force the Government into action.

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman claimed the proposals were far too weak, far too late and do not amount to a rent freeze.

“New tenancies will be not be limited, and anyone that has not received a rent increase in the last 12 months will now likely be facing a large hike because the Government has done nothing to limit how much increases can be apart from harking back to existing regulations, which have failed utterly,” he said.