TWO areas of Waterford – City South and City East – have been added to the list of Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) across Ireland as new figures from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) show that the city had the highest annual rent increase of anywhere in Ireland from January to March of this year (up 13.7 per cent).
An RPZ is a designated area where rents cannot be increased by more than four per cent per annum and it applies to new and existing tenancies (unless an exemption is being applied).
Although the addition of two areas in Waterford has been welcome, Councillors have criticised the system of using electoral areas to define which rents are frozen and which are not.
Green Party Councillor for Waterford City West and Tramore, Marc Ó Cathasaigh said he was “disappointed that renters in my local area will be left behind”.
“Using electoral areas to designate Rent Pressure Zones is a very flawed instrument,” he said. “Because my electoral area includes a significant rural component in Butlerstown and Fenor, renters in Gracedieu who need this type of protection have been excluded. We find ourselves in the crazy situation now that tenants on one side of the Yellow Road are included, while those across the road aren’t. It also fails to give protection to people in shorter term leases. It would be quite common in Tramore, where the rental market is extremely tight, for tenants to be given nine month leases to allow for holiday rentals during the summer – the RPZ legislation gives no protection in this instance.”
Cllr Ó Cathasaigh believes that even those areas of Waterford included in the designation are not receiving adequate protection.
“If a tenancy began today on the average rental in Waterford City of €968, a four per cent increase year-on-year would see that rise to €1132 by 2023, a jump of €164 – this against a background of an inflation rate in the economy generally of just one per cent,” he said.
“We’re really shifting deck-chairs on the Titanic here – the housing crisis demands radical interventions, not the fiddling around the edges approach that we see here. We have a generation locked out of home ownership while our homelessness figures spiral above 10,000. We need to see funding restored to local authorities to build housing, we need to bring city centre housing units back into use, we need to see substantial reform in our rental model to move us more towards the cost rental model proposed by the Green Party.”
Fianna Fail Councillor Jason Murphy, whose area is within the new RPZ, said that it’s a case of “too little, too late”.
“Waterford currently has the fastest rental growth rate in the state, which is pushing many Waterford tenants and families into poverty with average rents now standing at €826 per month,” Cllr Murphy said.
“To make matters worse, it would seem to me, from the many representations I have received over the last week that many landlords pre-empted the rent cap and have already implemented considerable rent increases well above the four per cent cap. The designation of Rent Pressure Zones amounts to little more than ‘putting a band aid on a gaping wound’ and while I’m glad that they have been introduced, they do nothing to deal with the woeful lack of supply of affordable rental properties and the total absence of a proper social and affordable housing policy by a Government that is becoming increasingly out of touch with the people.”
His colleague, City West Councillor Eamon Quinlan, stated: “Pobal statistics show that the other two City areas are higher on the income demographic (East) and lower (South) to City West so it has no rational reason as to why we would be ignored. Trying to say to one family there are rent limits on one side of Barrack Street and none on the other side of Barrack Street for example is just ludicrous.”