Thursday, 28 November 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Pearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
As my colleague, Deputy Ó Broin, laid out to the House yesterday, the Government's housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland, is in its fourth year. The results are stark. Homelessness is up 67% while more than 10,000 of our citizens are homeless. That is the new normal under Fine Gael in the country with the fastest growing economy in Europe. The number of homeless children has increased by 81% under the Government. It has nearly doubled. I mentioned one of those children, Sam, in the House last month. He is just one of more than 4,000 children who face into this Christmas without a home. The first duty of any decent society is to protect its children and the vulnerable. As the Tánaiste will be aware, too many of our children are facing into a type of Christmas they simply do not deserve. I refer to a Christmas in emergency accommodation, in a hotel room, or in bed and breakfast accommodation. For some it will be their fourth year in a row.
Last Tuesday, a conference held by Social Justice Ireland told us that there are toddlers unable to walk or crawl because of prolonged stays in emergency accommodation. Their development has been stunted and their future stolen from them. As the Tánaiste will be aware, the greatest cause of family homelessness in this State is the unaffordable and out-of-control private rental sector, which is . Rents have increased by 40% since this Government took office in 2016. The average new rent in Dublin now stands at more than €2,000 per month, while, in Cork, it is more than €1,300 per month. This has locked a whole generation of young people and young families into an out-of-control rental market. It has locked them out of the aspiration to ever own their own home. Reports published by the Central Bank just last week told us that the average deposit for a new house now stands at €87,000. How can individuals and families, locked into unaffordable rents, ever hope to secure a deposit of €87,000? For young people and young families whose rent swallows up their pay packets, the message from Government is clear: their future in Ireland is uncertain.
The Government has refused to take responsibility or to deliver the necessary housing. It has refused to take responsibility for unaffordable rents and for its failure to deliver affordable homes for first-time buyers. While failing to take responsibility for the housing crisis, it has also failed to listen to the alternative policies and solutions that we, in Sinn Féin, and those advocating on the front line have put forward, which would reduce the cost of rent by introducing a tax measure for renters and, crucially, a rent freeze. The Government has rejected that proposal, as has Fianna Fáil. These solutions would put a brake on the out-of-control rental market and would give renters breathing space to save and plan for the future. Will the Government take immediate action and listen to the concerns of renters throughout the State, understanding that the system is out of control? Will it belatedly accept what Sinn Féin has argued for and introduce a rent freeze?