On behalf of my party, I join the Ceann Comhairle in thanking every member of the staff here for their assistance during the past term. A number of members of staff are retiring during the recess. I wish them health and happiness and thank them for their service. I thank the Ceann Comhairle, and the acting chairmen, for their infinite patience which is tested everyday. I wish colleagues a productive recess and hope they all take a little holiday during the recess, and particularly for the benefit of our colleagues - who may not be with us at the moment - in the Press Gallery.
Back to real business and the housing and homelessness crisis is continuing apace. There are 6,000 adults and more than 3,500 children in emergency accommodation. Those figures is not changing. The cost of rent has never been as high, despite the introduction of rent pressure zones, RPZs. We all know the problems and challenges this causes people daily. It is having a particular impact on the provision of student accommodation. The Government today published a report outlining what it calls "progress" in providing student accommodation. The report states there are 18,600 bed spaces in various forms of planning and that by the end of this year 5,500 of those will be completed. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, described that as a healthy pipeline of student projects.
Once again, the Government is patting itself on the back while wilfully ignorant of the reality on the ground. Much of this accommodation is being built privately and rented out at exorbitant rates. Many people are having to make a choice between cancelling their place in college, turning it down or leaving college, because they cannot afford accommodation. Ms Síona Cahill, the president of the Union of Students in Ireland, USI, said today that international students are being targeted by colleges, which see them, to use her phrase, as "cash cows". For students who come from middle or modest class backgrounds, those rents of €1,000 or €1,400 a month are exorbitant and out of reach. That is the average going rate for student accommodation.
Families cannot afford that. That is not affordable for a working person, never mind a student. On the northside of Dublin city, students are faced with a 30% increase in rental costs for next year. We are all aware of the case of Shanowen in Santry where students will be hit with a 50% increase in rent, which follows a 30% increase last year. The same is happening in Cúirt na Coirbe in the National University of Ireland Galway, NUIG, and throughout the country. The Government can act and take measures now which do not need all of us to be sitting. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have provided a Bill and a pathway for the Government to take those measures and reduce the accommodation and rental burden on students and their families.
Why does Government not introduce amendments to the RPZs? Why does the Government not ensure student accommodation, such as Shanowen and Cúirt na Coirbe, is deemed under licence so that the tenants within them are treated in the same way as regular tenants and leases? What is the Government's plan to deal with the crisis facing student renters?