Longford/Westmeath Sinn Féin Deputy, Sorca Clarke, has called for the implementation of an emergency three year rent reduction and freeze following the publication of the Q4 Residential Tenancies Board index analysis which revealed the continuing escalation of rent premiums in the county.
“Rents in Westmeath have increased by 10.1 percent and this confirms the need for an emergency three year rent reduction and freeze.
“The Q4 Residential Tenancies Board rent index shows rents continuing to rise across, not just within the county of Westmeath, but throughout the country.
“Every single county in the state, including Westmeath, have seen their rents rise in the last 12 months by more than four percent. In Westmeath, rents have increased by 10.1 percent which represents a real financial burden on low and modest income renters and that was before the COVID-19 surge in unemployment.
“No doubt the Government will spin the line that the quarter on quarter reductions show signs that Rent Pressure Zones are working. The very opposite is the case. We now have three full years of Rent Pressure Zone failure.
“The latest figures confirm again the need for an emergency three-year rent reduction and freeze. This could be achieved by extending the current freeze and, in Budget 2021, providing for a refundable tax credit to put a month’s rent back into every renter’s pocket.
“We also need the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, to meet with opposition politicians and representatives from tenants, landlords and banks to put in place a plan to deal with the rent arrears debt burden that will arise during the COVID-19 restrictions.
“One very concerning anomaly that has been raised with me in recent days, is the fact that those in receipt of HAP who have lost their employment and have been informed that this will remain permanent, have been contacted by the local authority, outlining that they can no longer remain in receipt of the HAP payment as they fall outside of the affordable ceiling due to the stark reduction in household income.
The prohibition on evictions and the rent freeze that has been brought into effect during this crisis not only needs to be extended but discretion and a level of empathy needs to be applied to certain case when families are faced with losing the room over their heads and their only source of security during these times of crisis,” Deputy Clarke asserted.