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Council-house rent hikes branded ‘savage’ and draconian’

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‘NO DISCUSSION WITH MEMBERS’Castlebar councillor, Michael Kilcoyne.

Anton McNulty

A CASTLEBAR councillor has called for a report on the rent review of local authority housing, which will see some tenant’s rent rise by up to 100 percent.
The increase in rent served on some tenants was raised at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council. The rises were described as ‘savage’ and ‘draconian’ by councillors.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne raised the matter, pointing out that a new methodology for calculating council-house rents had been introduced. He questioned how such changes could have been implemented without any discussion with council members.
“The total fabric of the formula that [had previously been] used was taken apart and no discussion with members of the council. No feedback, no report. In some cases the rent tenants are paying has been doubled. This is savage and brutal,” he said.
However, the review was defended by Chief Executive Peter Hynes, who said that it had been many years since a rent review had been last carried out, and that the methodology used is in accordance with national guidelines.
“We haven’t had a rent review in a very long time, and that has been deliberate to keep rents  low so people could be given as much assistance [as possible]. There are national guidelines which are followed; we don’t just make them up and pick on someone who we think should pay more. There are guidelines on earning and dependence, and they are followed. If there are issues, we will review them,” he said.

‘A bridge too far’
Westport councillor Brendan Mulroy said the rent increase was wrong and that it was comparable to something a purely money-driven private landlord would do, while Fine Gael councillor Patsy O’Brien described the increases as ‘draconian’. He said two pensioners with health difficulties approached him about an increase in their rent, saying it was adding to their worries.
“No person, I don’t care who they are, should have an increase of 50 percent. That is not right and it should be reviewed. I am asking that common sense should prevail. It is draconian,” he said.
Cllr Gerry Ginty, who is the chairman of the Housing SPC, said he was aware of the rent review and that there may be some increases but not on the scale discussed.
“I am shocked to hear there would be anything like a 100 percent increase, and I think the matter will have to be raised again at the SPC meeting. I knew there were increases coming but at a limited amount, not at a 100 percent increase. That is a bridge too far,” Cllr Ginty said.
Many tenants in the county have yet to be informed about the rent review and how it will affect them. It is expected they will be all notified by the end of October.  
Cllr Kilcoyne proposed that a report be prepared on the rent review, which Mr Hynes said the council would be happy to do. “If you want a report, you’ll get a report,” he said.

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