Galway city may be line for a cap on rent increases, such as those planned for Dublin and Cork, but it could be February at the earliest before such caps are introduced - and only after it passes a series of stringent tests.
However this itself has been thrown into doubt as talks between the Government and Fianna Fáil on the proposed rent control plans broke down without agreement on Wedesday night. Furthermore An Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to withdraw plan if FF does not support it. The Dáil is scheduled to take the legislation giving effect to the rental plan today and Mr Coveney wants it passed by tonight, but that is now in doubt.
The rent caps are an attemp to put some brakes on the nationwide problem of rising rents. The Minister of Housing Simon Coveney proposed capping rent rates at four per cent. However, there was outrage among city councillors when the Government announced it would only introduce the measures in Dublin and Cork.
Labour Galway city councillor Niall McNelis accused the Government of being "severely detached from reality" in viewing the housing crisis "as a Dublin only issue". Fianna Fáil's Cllr Ollie Crowe was equally unimpressed, accusing the Government of "continuously ignoring" the city's housing crisis and Galway West Government TDs of being "entirely unaware such a crisis exists".
However, yesterday afternoon, Minister Coveney confirmed to Galway West TD and Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources, Seán Kyne, that Galway city can be designated as a "Rent Pressure Zone" and that work on such a designation must "start immediately". An RPZ is an area which has experienced rent increases of seven per cent or more in four of the last six quarters and where rent levels are already above the national average.
The designation does not mean Galway is automatically included with Dublin and Cork. It is dependent on recommendations from the Housing Agency and the Galway City Council, after which the Residential Tenancies Board will be tasked with analysing data on the rental sector in Galway, with the aim of designating the city as a Rent Pressure Zone. The process is expected to be complete by February after which the cap on rent increases would apply in Galway city.
Minister Kyne said he was concerned by Galway's exclusion from the Government rent proposals, but that the Rent Pressure Zone designation could "immediately help provide certainty to households in the rental accommodation sector".
If Galway is included in the rent caps with Dublin and Cork, it will see a rent cap of four per cent a year over the next three years. In the meantime the two year rental freeze, introduced by the previous Fine Gael-Labour Government, remains in place. Minister Kyne said that "in effect rules out rent increases before the new rent cap is in place".
A number of city councillors though are aghast that Galway was not automatically included in the Government scheme. According to a recent Daft.ie report, rent in Galway has increased 7.6 per cent in the last year, which came on top of several increases in years before that. Cllr Crowe pointed out that rents rose annually by 11 per cent in Galway city.
Cllr McNelis said Galway's exclusion, when rents are "skyrocketing, families are losing their homes, and City Hall is chasing rents" was "outrageous". He added: "Families are under huge pressure. You only have to talk to COPE Galway to know the impact on homelessness or to city council staff to know how they are chasing ever increasing private rents. Galway is not outside the rental crisis, we are at the front line of it."