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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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Cian O'Callaghan We need 10,000 new affordable purchase & rental homes built every year

The Social Democrats’ housing spokesperson outlines the challenges in housing and the measures that would make an immediate difference.

THIS GOVERNMENT HAS taken a wrecking ball to the lives of tens of thousands of people who are locked out of home ownership. Rents have continued to soar, homeless numbers have hit astronomical highs and house prices are at record levels.

Despite this, senior ministers and the Taoiseach continue to insist that their housing plan is working. Who are they trying to kid?

Today, the Dáil debates a Social Democrats’ motion on housing affordability. It will call on the Government to put practical steps in place to help the thousands of people struggling to find an affordable place to live.

There is plenty of evidence of the Government’s inability to get to grips with the housing crisis. It is a disaster of their own making.

Dire shortage

There are now more than half a million adults still living at home with their parents, according to census figures for 2022. More than 228,000 of them are over the age of 25. This represents a 14% rise since the last census in 2016 and a 19% increase since Fine Gael took office in 2011.

Locked out of home ownership and unable to afford Ireland’s exorbitant rents, this generation faces the choice of living with their parents indefinitely or emigrating to a country where they can enjoy independent lives.

Being stuck in a childhood bedroom can have profoundly negative impacts on mental health, self-esteem and the ability to form and maintain relationships.

Those lucky enough to find a place to rent are trapped paying exorbitant sums of money with no sense of security. The latest Daft report shows the average monthly rent of a home currently on the market is Ireland is now a staggering €1,792. Rent prices are at record highs, having almost doubled in a decade and increased by more than 20% since this Government took office.

Under this Government, home ownership rates have continued to fall and the average age a person can get a place of their own is rising. Over the last decade, during which time Fine Gael has been in power, house prices have skyrocketed while wages have remained relatively stable. This has significantly widened the gap between what people earn and what they can afford to buy. The median income for first-time buyers of new homes is now more than €90,000 and over €103,000 if you want to purchase in Dublin.

The cost of buying a home has increased by more than 25% under this Government. The price of an average home is now €330,000 – a rise of more than €66,000 since 2020 and €90,000 since 2017.

Simple solutions

I am contacted by constituents every day who have done all the right things: they have worked hard to get qualifications and a decent job, yet they have no hope of ever getting a mortgage.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are solutions that could make a real difference in people’s lives.

Our motion today calls for 10,000 affordable purchase and affordable rental homes to be built every year. With just 323 affordable purchase homes completed last year, the Government has failed to meet its 4,100 target – a target that was not nearly ambitious enough in the first place. The Minister for Housing – who failed to spend €1 billion of his department’s capital budget between 2020 and 2022 – must now publish figures for the delivery of affordable homes in 2023.

We will continue to push for an effective vacancy tax. The latest census showed that there are over 166,000 vacant homes in Ireland, which is completely unacceptable during a housing crisis. We are again calling on the Government to introduce a vacancy tax with teeth that will actively encourage people sitting on an empty home to either use it, sell it, or rent it.

We also want the Government to immediately reinstate the eviction ban. There are now almost 13,000 people living in emergency homeless accommodation, including more than 3,800 children and over 180 pensioners. Sadly, we can expect this grim record to be broken again when updated figures are published at the end of this month.

The majority of people entering homelessness are coming from the private rented sector where renters live in constant fear of eviction. There is proof that the temporary ban on no-fault evictions was working. It resulted in the first fall in homelessness in over a year until the Government made their disastrous decision to scrap it. Homelessness has been rising for 18 of the last 19 months. The only month it fell was at the tail end of the eviction ban, just as it had started working. Since the ban was lifted, 859 more people have become homeless – 357 of them children.

Without this basic level of protection, renters are once again exposed to the ever-present danger of eviction. We simply cannot accept the appalling numbers of people becoming homeless. In most European countries, renters who pay their rent cannot be evicted – we need similar protections for renters in Ireland.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have forced today’s locked-out generation to put their lives on hold. It has become clear that it will take a change of government to make a difference.

Cian O’Callaghan is deputy leader of the Social Democrats and the party’s spokesperson on housing. He is a TD for Dublin Bay North.


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