I welcome the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, to discuss this important issue.
I absolutely support his initiatives on housing. They are excellent, first class and well thought out, and the intention is good, particularly in rent pressure zones. Having said that, I live in a town where some of the estates are divided. An estate called Beaubec has some of its houses in the rent pressure zone while the others are not. In an estate called Rosevale, there is a rectangle in the green space around the houses. If one drew a diagonal across it, one would find all the houses on the left are rent controlled while all those on the right are not. It is a joke. It is a joke because the boundary between Drogheda and east Meath does not make sense. The boundaries are historical, dating back hundreds of years. There are no rivers or bridges on the boundary, just an imaginary line drawn on the ground. The issue emerges only in cases like this.
The problem concerns families living in these estates who are renting homes, particularly poorer families. It is poorer families whose needs I am addressing specifically. The supports for families who live in Drogheda, be they in the rent pressure zone or not, are higher than those for poorer families in cities such as Cork, Galway and most parts of this country. Therefore, poorer families are denied the protection of the Minister's rent pressure zones in my town. They are denied this on the basis of an arbitrary line and a formula that is inconsistent and does not take them into account. There ought to be a change to the formula so families who are poorer, unemployed and qualify for housing assistance payments will be put first. Drogheda has greater supports for the families in question than Cork and Galway, yet it is still excluded. Those affected could well be exposed in rent reviews over the next six quarters.
What were the rent reviews like in the past? In each of the past six quarters, the rents in Drogheda increased more than anywhere else. The increases are higher than the national average. Many of our tenants are being fleeced by these rent increases. They cannot afford them and are under serious pressure. My office is inundated with families who are very upset and concerned about this.
I have raised this matter with the proper authorities, including the RTB, ESRI, Housing Agency and the Minister's Department but I am still not satisfied that the formula is right. I await the Minister's response in regard to this. Ultimately, we must stand up for the poorest families, who face the greatest pressure in towns such as Drogheda and who, notwithstanding the good intentions of the Minister, remain excluded from the protection and safety of the rent pressure zones.