I would like to raise again the issue of housing. I am very conscious that as the light at the end of the tunnel gets a little bit brighter for people, we are beginning to consider what life, and Ireland, will look like once the pandemic passes and the public emergency is over. It is very encouraging that, despite everything people have been through in the past year, they still have that sense of hope and that sense of appetite for a better and fairer Ireland.
Long before the Covid emergency, people faced very many profound crises because of bad politics and bad government. Many of those crises deepened during the pandemic but the one that really stands out is the housing emergency, alongside the mental health emergency, which colleagues discussed this morning. When the Taoiseach came to office, he said that his Government would fix housing. He came to office on the back of an election campaign that was very heavily focused on the housing crisis. However, since coming to office, what we have seen is more of the same, persisting with the same kinds of developer-led policies that created the mess we have in the first place. Any claim of progress that might be made by the Government or the Taoiseach is now cruelly exposed by the shocking numbers of tents we see around the city centre of Dublin and the heart-wrenching image that we have seen of a four-year old child sitting on a crate here in the capital city eating her dinner on the side of the street. It is not the first time we have seen a child eating his or her dinner in similar circumstances.
This is the sharpest edge of the bad policy and bad government that have seen house prices go up and up. Indeed, the CSO tells us that house prices in Dublin have increased by a staggering 96% in the past nine years. These are not mansions, by the way; these are modest family homes. Meanwhile, extortionate rents continue to soar. In fact, rents are so high that many first-time buyers struggle to save a deposit. How on earth could any person save for a deposit when rent is €2,000 or more a month? It is a nightmarish trap in which people find themselves caught. As a result, an entire generation is locked out of owning their own home. This generation have had to put their lives on hold and curtail their aspirations because Government continues to choose policies that make the situation worse.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of things is that it does not have to be this way. We need to build affordable housing that people can actually afford. That means the State leading from the front. It means direct investment and it means dropping the developer-led approach that is still in evidence, for example, in the Government's shared equity scheme. We need to intervene on behalf of renters. We have to ensure that evictions remain banned for the foreseeable future. Above all, we need to ensure that rents are cut and increases in rents are banned.
I ask the Taoiseach to guarantee, and to offer to work with the rest of us to ensure, that we see a cut in rents and any increase in rents banned. Rents need to be frozen.