USI  welcomed the Strategy for the Rental Sector published on December 13th by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. The strategy focuses on four key areas: security, supply, standards and service. USI believe that the document is the first and important step towards affordable and secure rental accommodation in Ireland – but believes that there is still more to be done on the issue of student and purpose built accommodation.

The Strategy introduces Rent Pressure Zones, where the rent increase will be capped to 4% a year for a three-year period. Those areas are where the rent increases have been at 7% or more in four of the last six quarters and where the rent levels were already above national average. ‘ The time is ripe to finally address the housing situation in the private rental market setting out long, medium and short-term measures. We are confident that a system of rent regulation will provide greater certainty for student tenants and landlords and therefore we would urge the Government for an immediate introduction.’ says USI President Annie Hoey. ‘However, we’d like to point out that rent adjustment in the most pressured areas does not prevent significant increases elsewhere. ’

‘The maintenance grants do not increase along with the rent increases. Students will have to continue to search for new jobs and, distracted from their courses, earn money to be able to make up the continuously increasing rent.’ continues Hoey.

According to Q3 2016 report, rents in Galway are now at 14% above their 2008 peak, which marks ‘a bigger increase than any market in Dublin’. Although USI would urge the Government to immediately introduce the so-called rent predictability measures we would like to emphasise the need of extending it to other locations, where students are at the risk of high rent increases (e.g. Galway, Limerick).

Furthermore, USI acknowledges the supportive landlord accreditation scheme. Landlords can get support in complying with the existing regulations and therefore ensuring security of tenants rights. ‘This is an important step towards ensuring the adequate quality of accommodation. Unfortunately students in Ireland too often have to occupy places that cause a threat to their physical or mental health due to defective appliances or insufficient maintenance’ states Hoey.

The strategy proposes measures for revising minimum standards and suggest rolling-out an inspection programme. The already existing minimum standards seem to be very extensive, and yet they had not been followed by the landlords. Even with increased inspections, only 25% of tenancies will be monitored by 2021. Unfortunately none of those actions ensure how will the execution of the new regulations be ensured.

USI believes that a national Deposit Protection Scheme is the only way to effectively protect deposits. ‘This has been a talk about deposit retention scheme for a number of years now Therefore, we urge the Government to take actions to come forward with a proposal as quickly as possible.’ says Hoey.

USI noted that the strategy include a range of strategy to accelerate development of students. The document underlines the objective to support rapid development of purpose-built accommodation reducing pressure on the mainstream rental market. The lack of student accommodation very often forces students to seek poor quality, overpriced accommodation in private rental sector. ‘We are committed to work on the upcoming Student Accommodation Strategy, which will address the difficulties students have every year with finding a place to stay. We cannot accept a situation when students have to drop out of their courses because they don’t have roof over their heads’ Hoey continues.

If you want to read USI Submission to the Rental Strategy, please follow this link.