WE were recently given another reminder of the severity of the rent crisis, and of how an entire generation is locked out of affordable, secure housing.
A Daft.ie report showed that rents in Cork have risen by 100.8% since 2001. The average rent in Cork city now stands at an ear-watering €1,574 per month.
Of course, this won’t come as a shock to those caught up in the crisis. They feel it in their back pockets every day. We now have the first generation of twenty and thirty year olds that are worse off than their parents.
Alongside this, the Simon Community reported that there wasn’t a single property in Cork city or suburbs available in June under HAP thresholds. There were only six properties within the discretionary 20% ‘top-up’ Cork City Council can provide. There wasn’t one property within the limits for single people.
The results of the study once again highlight how single people are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to securing a home to rent. The Government’s dependence on private rented sector subsidised accommodation results in people being pushed into homelessness.
The over-dependence on HAP is not only bad for the tenant, it is also poor value for money for the exchequer. The rising costs of all rent subsidies, including HAP rent supplement, RAS and long-term leases, will cost the taxpayer in excess of €1 billion in 2021.
I’m being contacted by people who are at the end of their tether and whose lives are being destroyed by this rental crisis.
One lady described the impact a rent increase has had on her family: “I am at my wits’ end with stress and worry for me and my son as we are now on borrowed time. My rent has increased since August 1 massively and I cannot afford to pay it. I’m living in fear every time my phone rings or there is a knock at the door, if it’s the landlord or not.”
Another lady from Glanmire wrote to me, describing how she lives in her parents’ house with her children. The house is extremely overcrowded. She works full-time but can never see herself being able to privately rent or buy them a home in the current crisis. She said: “I work hard for myself and my two children and just feel I can’t catch a break at this stage.”
Words like ‘desperate’, ‘terrified’ and ‘hopeless’ appear in emails every single week from families and individuals trying to find a home to rent in Cork. People in their twenties or thirties who feel their lives are suspended because they can’t start a family because housing is so unaffordable. Students terrified to finish college and with nowhere to go. Young families living in overcrowded rooms in the family home because extortionate rents have made the prospect of moving out impossible. That is the reality of the housing crisis.
The rent crisis is the result of the bad housing policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
It is happening because people who should have been able to buy their own home years ago are trapped in the private rental market.
Families who should be in public housing paying fair rents are trapped there too.
The solutions to this rental crisis aren’t complex. They are straightforward and they will work. Sinn Féin has a real plan that will see rents affordable again.
Eoin O Broin, as Housing Minister, would deliver thousands of homes at prices working people can afford.
We would ban rent increases for three years, put a month’s rent back into people’s pockets, and ban vacant possession notices to quit.
We would end the over-reliance on HAP which has contributed to the phenomenal rent increases in Cork in recent years.
But the government’s answer to these solutions is no, no, no. In fact, Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s lackadaisical responses in the Dáil would have us believe that he views rip-off rents as a figment of people’s imagination.
This is a kick in the teeth for those robbed of the opportunity to buy or rent an affordable home due to bad government policy.
This government and Sinn Féin differ on the way forward. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil want to leave housing in the hands of private developers.
I believe the answer to the housing crisis is a strong government intervening where the private market has failed and directly delivering the solutions that are needed for ordinary people.
But can we not all agree that now is the time to take real action to lift renters out of the trap?
The Government has to act urgently, to give Generation Rent a fair shot at making it.
They want to work hard, save their money and be rewarded with the opportunity to buy their own home.
To have a life that is not weighed down by stress of a housing crisis.
To be able to plan for their future with a secure roof over their heads.
This is not much to ask.
This is a modest ambition that cannot be held back from them any longer.