The Government came to office four months ago promising to take major action on housing. The harrowing stories from people whose lives have been ruined by the housing crisis are well known to all of us: young couples who cannot afford a home of their own, some living with their children in the box room of their mammy's house; struggling renters who hand a chunk of their wages over to landlords every month; and families on council waiting lists for years, with no light at the end of the tunnel. For an entire generation, the security of having an affordable roof over their heads has been reduced to a pipe dream, and this is the devastating result of decades of bad housing policy from successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led Governments.
The lack of urgency from the Government on this matter is very concerning. The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, spent the entire summer on the media telling people that he would publish his affordable housing plan in September, but September came, September went and still no affordable housing materialised. The budget came in October and it, too, was a massive disappointment. The housing measures fell far short of what is needed to deal with the most serious affordable and social housing crisis in the history of the State. More new money will go to private landlords and private developers than will go towards genuinely affordable homes for working people. So long as housing policy in this State is directed by and for wealthy developers and landlords, we will never fix the housing crisis and our people will continue to suffer.
We see from the latest daft.ie report, published on Monday, that renters are still suffering because of a failure of the Government to act. The report shows that rents are rising right across the State, with increases of almost 3% outside Dublin in the past year. It is alarming to see rental increases of almost 5% in Cork, Galway and Waterford and hikes as large as 7% in counties such as Wexford. The average State-wide rent now stands at €1,419 per month. New Dublin city rents now average €2,028. There is no good news for renters here in the capital. This crisis is clearly getting worse. Just as when it comes to affordable housing, there is no response from the Minister. Budget 2021 contained nothing for renters, no action to stop rent rises, no measures to put money back in renters' pockets and no funding to deliver the volume of affordable cost-rental accommodation that our cities and our country desperately need. These are the measures and solutions that Sinn Féin has consistently urged the Government to adopt, and ignoring these solutions was a serious failure on its part.
In the midst of the pandemic, hard-pressed tenants are paying the price of this failure in the form of increasing rents. Surely an emergency of this nature should have been a catalyst to deliver secure and affordable housing. Instead, people got the opposite: higher rents and a higher cost of living, which is incredible. What does the Taoiseach propose to do about this? Does he now recognise and accept that there is an urgent and immediate need for his Government to introduce measures to stop rent increases? When will we finally see his Government's affordable housing plan?