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Latest: Micheál Martin attacks Taoiseach over 'complacency' on 'shocking' rent crisis

Update 6.35pm: Opposition leader Micheál Martin has said a new report on housing rents makes for "very dismal and depressing reading."

He said that over a number of years the rental increase in Dublin has been "shocking" and warned it is having a "huge impact on people."

Mr Martin also accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of complacency in his approach to the country's housing crisis.

The Fianna Fáil leader was speaking during a debate in the Dáil about the findings of the latest Daft.ie report which showed that rents were at an all-time high.

Mr Martin said that behind all the figures were human stories.

"Many families are under threat of eviction and are extremely worried, having been given deadlines by landlords to leave their properties because they need to renovate them or give them to family members.

"Many families are now doubling and tripling up, as we know from our clinics.

"There are people coming in who are living with their parents or siblings and so on. There are young people getting their first jobs in cities and 40% to 50% of their income is going on rent. The student experience is becoming hazardous," he said.

Mr Martin also criticised the Taoiseach for being unable to recall the recommendations from a Department of Finance report in September to help tackle the crisis.

He said it was extraordinary that none of the recommendations had been implemented by the Government.

When Mr Varadkar said he would have to look again at the report because it was published some time ago Mr Martin said his response was "very worrying".

"That sums up the complacency around this issue of housing," he said.

"These were the measures designed to retain, and increase the supply of, landlords in the market and he does not have a clue about them, coming in here. That sums up the complacency around this issue of housing," added Mr Martin.

Mr Varadkar hit back and said: "I do recall the report. I am familiar with it but, obviously, if I am going to be asked detailed questions about the recommendations, I would have liked the opportunity to at least cast my eyes over the report again before speaking to it."

He said the Government was "very aware of the impact that rising rents are having on many people."

"In some cases they risk driving people into homelessness. In many cases people are required to pay a huge portion of their post-tax incomes in rent, thus leaving very little money for other costs, whether child care or the many other costs of living.

"We acknowledge absolutely that rising rents are having an enormous impact on people, particularly those who are struggling to make ends meet," added the Taoiseach.

- PA

Update 3.01pm: Tougher rent laws could create 'even more of a black market', says Taoiseach

The Taoiseach says introducing tougher laws on renting could cause even more of a black economy in the housing market.

Leo Varadkar was facing criticism in the Dáil after the latest Daft.ie report shows rents are at an all-time high.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said many young people are now spending half their income on rent.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is reluctant to expand the rent pressure zones around the country.

"When it comes to any additional measures, we need to be careful," said Mr Varadkar.

"There is a risk that if you bring in rent controls that are too strict or too rigid, that that is counterproductive. That you actually create even more of a black market in rent.

"We see that happening in places where there are very strict rent controls and people end up paying cash amounts under the table or end up sub-letting to others.

"We need to make sure we don't make those kind of mistakes."

- Digital Desk

Update 12.07pm: Calls for landlords to be up front about the rent they are charging

There are calls for landlords to be up front about the rent they are charging.

Housing agency Threshold wants an independent registry to keep track of rental prices for individual properties.

It says the database could make sure prices in rent pressure zones do not go up by more than the 4% limit.

Threshold's Chief Executive John-Mark McCafferty.

The calls follow a new Daft report showing that national average rental costs have risen by over 10% in the past year to more than €1,200 a month.

Threshold's Chief Executive John-Mark McCafferty says renters need to be able to clearly see what the rent was for the previous tenancy.

He said: "Currently it is the landlords word you have to take at face value but if there was a transparent register then potential renters would be able to see what the previous rent was."

Update 10am: Landlords operating in 'hostile climate' as rents reach all-time high

Landlords say they are operating in a hostile climate as rents reach an all-time high.

A new report from the property Website Daft shows average monthly rental costs have now topped €1,200 a month.

It is a 10% annual increase nationally - and well above the 4% hike allowed in so-called rent pressure zones.

The figures have sparked concern from housing campaigners.

But Fintan McNamara, the Director of the Residential Landlords Association, says it is a simple case of supply and demand.

He said: "Political climate at the moment is very hostile to landlords, the rental sector is overly regulated.

"Hardly six months goes by and we have some new regulation or other and I think it is time to stop focusing on the regulation and focus on the supply.

Update 9.43am: Rent caps need to be monitored and policed, says Daft's top economist

Daft's top economist says that the rent caps need to be monitored and policed.

It is after the latest Daft.ie report shows that the average rent now stands at €1,227 a month - a new all time high.

Ronan Lyons.

Rents went up over 10% nationally last year - well above the 4% limit for pressure zones.

Daft Economist Ronan Lyons says we need to look at allowing the Residential Tenancies Board to police rents because the current system isn't working.

He said: "Unfortunately the rent pressure zones aren't working for the very reason they were brought in - there is a lot of demand and not a lot of supply and therefore rents are rising."

- Digital Desk

Earlier: Rents surge beyond boom levels with prices rising average of 10.4% during 2017

More misery for renters is revealed in the latest property round-up, which shows rents at their highest level ever with little sign of them slowing any time soon, writes Caroline O’Doherty.

The number of properties available to let has also plummeted to the lowest on record — leaving renters at the mercy of a market that can name its price.

According to property website Daft.ie, rents rose by an average 10.4% during 2017 — the fourth year in a row that increases have topped 10%. That is despite areas where the highest increases occurred being included in rent pressure zones which are meant to cap annual rises at 4%.

Housing charities say the figures clearly show the failure of rent pressure zones and other Government initiatives aimed at tackling the rental crisis.

Niamh Randall, spokeswoman for Simon Communities, said the measures needed urgent review.

“Rent pressure zones cannot work without proper monitoring and enforcement,” she said.

Focus Ireland said the survey was “deeply troubling”.

Its advocacy director, Mike Allen, said: “We have a truly dysfunctional housing system and while we recognise that Government has taken a number of measures, the evidence is clear that these still fall far short of what is needed.”

Rent pressure zones were introduced in 2016 and cover 21 areas, including all of Dublin, Cork City and several suburbs, much of Galway, and key parts of Meath and Louth, yet rent increases in these areas last year ranged from 7.7% to 14% — far above the 4% cap.

Surges also occurred in Limerick City and Waterford City, which are not zoned and saw increases of 14.8% and 12%. All bar one county, Donegal, had increases at least double the 4% marker.

Ronan Lyons, economist at Trinity College Dublin and author of the Daft report, said the underlying pressure for rising rents continued to be a chronic shortage of available rental accommodation.

“With at least 40,000 new homes a year needed to meet underlying demand, but with below 20,000 homes built in 2017, it remains the priority for policymakers to bring constructions costs down in line with affordable levels,” he said.

According to Daft, there were just 3,143 properties available to rent in the whole country on February 1 which is the lowest since surveying began in 2006.

Rents nationally now average €1,227 per month, with Dublin still the most expensive at €1,822 followed by Cork at €1,180, Galway at €1,096, Limerick at €1,004, and Waterford at €835. Around the rest of the country, the average is €860.

The latest increases mean nationally rents have grown by 65% since they bottomed out in 2011, while there has been an 81% leap in Dublin. A renter in the capital has to fork out €4,500 more per year than they did during the previous peak in 2008.

In most cases, it would be cheaper to buy a property than rent it, as the difference between mortgage repayments and rent is almost double in some instances, and is particularly high in the case of starter properties such as one-bed apartments and two-bed houses.

The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) disputed the interpretation of the figures, saying they reflected rents being asked for new tenancies and not existing tenancies being renewed.

IPOA chairman Stephen Faughnan said he had warned there would be a shortage of properties because heavy taxation of rental income would push many landlords out of the market.

“A private landlord is left with far less for running the business than would appear from the regular media hype about increased rents,” he said.

The Department of Housing said it would be rolling out new powers to the Residential Tenancies board for the enforcement of the rent pressure zone regulations over the next two years and was moving towards the annual registration of tenancies which would provide a national rent dataset which would better inform future policy decisions.