Tuesday, 14 May 2019
An Bille um an gCúigiú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (An Ceart chun Teaghaise) 2016: An Dara Céim [Comhaltaí Príobháideacha] - Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]
The right to a home is the most basic demand a person can have. Without the right to a home, a person cannot have any stability in life. He or she cannot start a family or plan for the future. There are now 118 people homeless in the four midlands counties. In County Offaly there are 50 people homeless, while there are 19 homeless in County Laois, which is absolutely shameful. The responsibility for the housing crisis belongs with the right-wing failed private market policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. This week new figures from daft.ie reveal that rents have increased by, on average, 8.5% in County Offaly in the past year and by 10.7% in County Laois. How are ordinary people supposed to come up with the money to meet these increases? Workers' wages are not increasing at that rate and some workers are not getting any increase at all. Amazingly, rents in counties Laois and Offaly are now 30% above 2008 peak prices. Families are being priced out of their homes and forced into homelessness. People have come into my constituency office in the past week whose rent has increased by between 20% and 30%. Could it be any clearer that the Government's housing policies have absolutely failed tenants and are great for landlords?
Sinn Féin has repeatedly brought forward measures to introduce rent controls across the State. We have consistently called for State intervention in the market to get a hold on the problem, but the Government has failed to even designate the midlands as one of the rent pressure zones which are not working to any great extent. The Government has failed to do anything in the market in the midlands. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have repeatedly clubbed together to vote down our proposals and it looks like they are going to do the same again here this evening. They are two parties which represent nothing more than a landlords' coalition and do not represent the interests of the average renter or mortgage holder. It is outrageous that we now have the lowest ever total of homes available to rent. Eight local authority houses were completed in County Offaly last year and just 34 in Counthy Laois. They are moving at a snail's pace because the Department is deliberately slowing down the granting of approval.
It is time for the State to step up and take action with a massive house building programme in every constituency. That is why Sinn Féin is demanding that we enshrine in the Constitution the right of every citizen to a home. It would be just one measure and not a silver bullet. We have called for a three-year rent freeze and 8.5% tax relief on rents paid, with a doubling of the number of local authority homes. Some people are paying half their wages in rent. It is essential that we build more local authority homes and start to build affordable homes and introduce rent controls across the country. I call on Members to support the Thirty-fifth amendment of the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill 2016.