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Homeless Housing Assistance Payments (Haps) must be extended for renters outside Dublin by the new Minister for Housing, the co-leader of the Social Democrats has said.
Deputy Catherine Murphy said Minister Eoghan Murphy needs to “hit the ground running with actions to solve the crisis facing struggling renters”.
Her comments come after a report from the Private Residential Tenancies Board showed the cost of renting a home countrywide had jumped by almost 7.4 per cent in the 12 months to the end of March.
The report, for the first quarter of 2017, was the first since the introduction of rent pressure zones aimed at softening rent spikes.
Published on Thursday morning, it shows that while rents continue to trend upwards, quarter-on-quarter growth was relatively flat, increasing by 0.1 per cent. This is down from a 2.8 per cent increase over a three-month period recorded in the previous quarter.
The standardised average national rent is now €987 per month, which is up just €1 on the last quarter of 2016.
Trends in private sector rents in Dublin and outside Dublin appear to be mixed once again, illustrating the diversity of the rental market across the State.
Rents in Dublin and surrounding commuter counties are among the highest relative to the national average, with parts of Cork and Galway cities also above the average.
However, overall rents in Dublin declined this quarter by 1.5 per cent, driven primarily by a fall in rents for Dublin apartments.
Ms Murphy said the latest figures on rent prove the market is “totally broken”. She said the minister must extend emergency rent assistance measures nationwide to prevent homelessness caused by rising rents.
“Rents are increasing above the national average in commuter counties around Dublin and parts of Cork and Galway,” she said.
“People are facing homelessness because they simply cannot afford to pay the ridiculous amounts that are being asked.”
She said people who rely on rent benefits like Haps are being locked out of the rental market altogether.
“In Dublin in particular, Hap rates are not keeping pace with market rents – this means that vulnerable tenants are facing homelessness.”
She described the situation in the private rental sector outside Dublin as “critical” for people who rely on rent supports.
“Despite the fact that rents are rising faster in urban areas outside of Dublin, many of these areas have not been designated as rent pressure zones,” she said.
“What’s more, these renters are not eligible for the enhanced supports available under the so-called ‘Homeless Hap’ which has been operating in the four Dublin local authorities for the past few years.”
She said the incoming minister must get to work urgently and extend the Homeless Hap payments for renters outside Dublin and extend rent certainty measures nationwide.