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Councillors call for rent controls

News

Oisín McGovern

TWO members of Mayo County Council’s Special Policy Committee (SPC) on Housing have called for rent-control measures to be introduced amidst a severe shortage of rental accommodation in the county.
The calls were made by Cllrs Michael Kilcoyne and Patsy O’Brien as it was revealed that 86 people have presented as homeless to Mayo County Council since January. Out of those, 32 were single people. Eleven families are currently availing of emergency accommodation in B&Bs, hotel and private accommodation.
The council’s Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) placement finder has assisted 53 households in finding accommodation, with 38 tenancies currently active.
Seventeen households were prevented from having to use emergency accommodation through the council’s Tenancy Sustainment Officer, while 22 people were assisted in leaving emergency accommodation.
These figures were disclosed at a recent meeting of the Housing SPC.
Currently, there are just over 40 properties available to rent in Mayo on Daft.ie. The most recent Daft.ie report revealed that the average rent in the county is €894, an 18.8 percent increase on the previous year.
Mayo County Council Tenancy Sustainment Officer Julie Ryan said it was ‘increasingly difficult’ to find accommodation for households seeking or exiting emergency accommodation.
“A lot of landlords are leaving the market and it’s very hard to try and sustain… but we’ll keep fighting the fight and doing our best for people involved,” she said.

County-wide issue
HEAD of Housing with Mayo County Council Simon Shevlin told the online meeting that the threat of homelessness was now ‘a county-wide issue’.
“It’s not for specific MDs [municipal districts], in reality it’s hitting the towns you wouldn’t expect, in the more prosperous areas. People are struggling there,” he said.
Mr Shevlin added that those availing of the HAP and RAS (Rent Assistance Payment) schemes ‘cannot survive long-term in the rental accommodation sector if rents keep increasing’.
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne called for the rent-pressure-zone regulations currently in place in Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford cities to be introduced nationwide.
“I have a letter here from a person whose got a letter saying their rent is going to be increased by 60 percent. They are going to end up in emergency accommodation because there’s no way, with the cap on the HAP, that they are going to be able to pay that money,” Cllr Kilcoyne said.
“The fact is that the landlord is going to get somebody else to come in there and pay that kind of money. People who are struggling in society are going to be left struggling,” added the Castlebar-based councillor.
“I find it unbelievable that these landlords can get away with doing this.”

‘Totally disfunctional’
Cllr Patsy O’Brien said the government had ‘completely failed’ to address the issue of increasing rents and called for a rent freeze to be introduced.
Cllr Neil Cruise said that the shortage of rental accommodation was going to be ‘seriously exacerbated’ by people whose homes are to be demolished due to pyrite contamination.
Mayo County Council’s Director of Services for Housing Tom Gilligan described the county’s rental market as ‘unsustainable’, ‘broken’ and ‘totally dysfunctional’.