The housing crisis is deepening and Government efforts are failing to impact significantly on it. The cost of housing is growing at twice the rate of average earnings across the country. Rent prices have soared by 8% nationally. In Dublin, the cost of rent makes up more than half of the minimal living costs. At 68%, which is a stark number, the rate of home ownership is now the lowest since 1971. The younger generation, essentially, have been locked out of home ownership and have lost confidence in ever being able to afford to buy a house. The new average before people can buy a house is now 35. In the 1990s it was 26 years of age. When Deputy Varadkar become Taoiseach two years ago the number of children homeless was at 1,881. Today, the figure is over double that at 3,794. I recall the then Minister for Housing, Deputy Coveney, promising in June 2016 that child homelessness would be over by the end of that year.
This, by any yardstick, is a litany of failure. Plan after plan has been produced and they have not worked in accordance with the targets set in each plan. There was an over-reliance on the free market, the private market, to solve all the issues. I suggest that over-reliance has backfired and failed.
There have been attempts to engineer a change from home ownership to rental. The current budget alone in terms of rental schemes is anywhere up to €900 million, an extraordinary figure. It is in the billions of euro when one goes back over the last five or six years. In terms of house building, either council houses or affordable houses, it has dwarfed any of that. That was a clear policy to engineer and to contrive people to move away from ever owning homes to renting. All the initiatives that were announced from rapid build, the affordable rental schemes, the repair and leasing scheme to the home loan scheme have failed spectacularly in the targets they set. They have not reached their targets. They have been bedevilled with bureaucracy, lack of urgency and delayed delivery. Rent pressure zones have now been extended to 19 areas but rents continue to soar.
Will the Taoiseach answer clearly when does he expect we will have a situation where children will no longer have to live in hotel rooms or emergency accommodation and will have access to public housing? When will we see meaningful progress in the provision of affordable homes for people? Does the Taoiseach accept that home ownership is no longer attainable for young people under the current policies and that they have no confidence in ever being able to buy a house?