By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
The housing crisis is spilling out into a social crisis for the education, health and business sectors, the Dáil has heard.
Various reports have highlighted that Ireland’s rents and housing prices are soaring amid a severe shortage of supply, with homeless figures reaching all-time highs for four consecutive months.
A survey carried out by the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) found that two-thirds of nursing graduates are considering emigrating.
Addressing Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty read out the experiences of nurses struggling to rent or buy a house.
“Many of them have written to Sinn Féin in recent weeks to tell their heartbreaking experience of struggling to get by, and Tánaiste, when you read through what they told us, you can see very clearly that they’re exhausted, they’re anxious, they’re overwhelmed with stress.
“They struggle to find accommodation, they fork out extortionate sums of rent every single month, and they worry endlessly about the future.”
Reading out some testimonies, Mr Doherty told the Dáil the story of a 21-year-old student nurse who is in her final year, who said she was homeless in Limerick for the first semester of last year.
He told TDs another story from a nurse, aged 33 and from Co Louth, who said she and her husband live in her parents’ garage and are emigrating next year as they cannot afford their own home.
He said that the party had received dozens of “heartbreaking” letters from people who are qualified or trained to look after patients in Ireland, but see no future here due to the housing crisis.
“When is the penny going to drop?” he asked Mr Varadkar.
“When are you going to actually take action because this is no longer a housing crisis.
“This is a social crisis that is creeping into every sphere of our society – from education, to health, to business.”
Mr Varadkar acknowledged that there was “a very deep” social crisis affecting the country.
“Everyone in government accepts that we have a deep crisis when it comes to housing.
“We acknowledge that that has led to a very deep social crisis that’s affecting our country, and indeed, a very deep personal crisis for a lot of people as well.
“And we also see it, as you’ve outlined, in some of the difficulties that the public sector, the health service, the education sector, private companies are having in recruiting and retaining staff particularly in Dublin and our cities, but not exclusively there.”
Mr Varadkar acknowledged that the 28,000 homes that will be built this year and the 16,000 first-time buyers’ homes, though high compared with the past 10-15 years, “is not enough”.
“It’s nowhere near enough and we need to do much better to turn the corner on housing in the months and years ahead.”
“The real problem is the new tenancies, new properties coming into the market,” he said, which isn’t affected by a rent freeze.