By James Ward, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been accused of “sitting on his hands” while rents spiral out of control.
Opposition parties have challenged the Government over reports that rents have more than doubled in the last decade, as the housing crisis continues to dominate the political agenda.
A Sinn Féin motion calling for a three-year ban on rent increases is expected to be voted down by the Government on Wednesday night.
Clueless, out of touch, delusional = #FFFG Govt in the midst of a housing crisis.
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) May 12, 2021
Raising the issue, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil “an entire generation is now locked out of affordable, secure housing.”
“Rents have doubled in the last decade. And now the average state-wide rent stands at an eye-watering €1,443 per month” she said, citing a report from property website Daft.ie.
“Of course, that is a shocking figure. But it comes as no shock to all of those caught up in this crisis because, of course, they feel it in their pockets every day.
“Taoiseach, we now have the first generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are worse off than their parents.
“The rent crisis that we and they face is the result of bad housing policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”
Ms McDonald criticised the lack of clarity from Government over promises to tackle so-called “cuckoo funds”.
She said: “We know that wealthy investment funds empowered by your cushy tax deals are snapping up family homes renting them to those same families then at extortionate rates, and all the while pushing up house prices.
“These are the same funds that have been buying up city apartment blocks for years and charging sky-high rents for those, too.
I can only surmise that you don't have a plan, that you propose to sit on your hands
“Rising rents outside of Dublin will no doubt act as an incentive for these funds to buy up housing across the commuter belt, but not alone that, also into our regional cities.”
Questioning the lack of clarity on Government proposals to tackle the funds, she said: “I can only surmise that you don’t have a plan, that you propose to sit on your hands.”
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy outlined how State policies benefit the investment funds and said the Government was “up to its neck in it”.
She quoted directly from a Dublin-based financial advisory firm, Gillen Markets, in a note sent to their investors.
She told the Dáil: “It said, and I quote: ‘The current high level of house prices and rents in Ireland’s residential property market have been driven in a significant way by the Government’s housing policy with favourable policies attracting institutional investors, such as Ires Reit, into the market.
“‘Their gradual move into the market has contributed to higher housing prices and, thus, higher rents.'”
“It continues: ‘Overall, the current housing policy has benefited both institutions and developers at the expense of individual buyers.
“‘The potential risk for institutions such as Ires comes from a potential change in Government policy.'”
Ms Murphy added: “Now, Taoiseach, Gillen Markets’ assessment of your Government’s housing policy is among the most damning I’ve ever read, even if it wasn’t intended to be. And, your Government knew all about it.”
The Taoiseach responded by telling the Dáil that housing is the Government’s number one priority.
He outlined his commitment to the largest social housing building programme in the history of the State, that aims to deliver 50,000 social homes in the lifetime of this Government.
He also challenged Sinn Féin over their record of voting down housing projects.
The Taoiseach told Ms McDonald: “Your motion this evening will not build one extra house, and be honest about it.
“It would be far better, Deputy, if you and your party supported housing projects across the length and breadth of the country, instead of opposing them.
“Instead of opposing 975 houses in Clondalkin, instead of opposing 500 homes in Tallaght, instead of opposing 278 houses in Swords, instead of proposing 1,200 homes in Donabate.
“That’s what you could do constructively to get more houses built in this country.”
He said Sinn Féin’s housing policy was “shallow” and accused the party of exploiting the housing crisis to “your own electoral and political advantage”.
And Mr Martin told the Dáil the Government is now “the largest player in the housing market, in terms of investment”.