That Dáil Éireann:
— the rental crisis continues to spiral out of control;
— rents across the State have increased by 2.5 per cent in the last 12 months;
— rents in the commuter belt counties increased by 5 per cent during the same period;
— rents in Leitrim, Longford, Carlow, Kildare and Limerick have increased by 11 per cent, 9 per cent, 8 per cent, 6 per cent and 6 per cent respectively during the same period;
— the average rent across the State is now €1,256 per month;
— the average rent in Dublin is now €1,745 per month;
— in many parts of Dublin, asking rents are more than €2,000 per month;
— high rents are making it more difficult for first-time buyers, and those who lost their homes, due to recession era repossession or relationship breakdown, to buy their own home;
— high rental yields are incentivising investors to focus on the high-end, Build to Rent market, reducing the output of new homes to rent or buy at affordable prices;
— excessive tax breaks for real estate investment vehicles are having a distorting effect on land values, residential development costs and, in turn, rent levels;
— renters are at an increased risk of eviction and homelessness due to Covid-19 protections being removed by the Government;
— since August 2020, there have been 2,401 rent warnings issued by landlords, 715 Notices to Quit issued, and just 407 written declarations from Covid-19 impacted renters;
— the failure of the Government to regulate rents or invest in affordable Cost Rental is 835 also pushing up rents;
— just €35 million was allocated for affordable Cost Rental homes in 2021;
— a maximum 440 affordable Cost Rental homes will be delivered in 2021;
— the Government has no plan to deliver affordable Cost Rental homes on the scale recommended by the Housing Agency, the National Economic and Social Council or the Economic and Social Research Institute;
— the Rent Pressure Zone legislation expires at the end of 2021; and
— the Government has no plan to reduce rents, protect renters from further rent hikes or end the crisis in the private rental sector; and
calls on the Government to:
— introduce an emergency three-year ban on rent increases in the private rental sector;
— make provision in Budget 2022 for a refundable tax credit for private rental tenants, to put a month’s rent back in every renter’s pocket;
— make provision in Budget 2022 to commence the delivery of at least 4,000 affordable Cost Rental homes in 2022;
— amend the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended, including section 34, to provide for real tenancies of indefinite duration;
— introduce a NCT-style certification for all rental properties to ensure compliance with minimum standards;
— resource local authorities to ensure an inspection rate of 25 per cent of rental tenancies within their administrative area each year; and
— make Residential Tenancies Board determinations legally enforceable, without the need for court action, by amending the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, as amended."
Our rental system is well and truly broken. Rents across the State are too high and, because of Government inaction, are continuing to rise. Single property landlords and thousands of private rental tenancies have been leaving the market over the last three years and, unfortunately, they are being replaced by a small number of far more expensive institutional build-to-rent-funded projects.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, since taking up that portfolio, has introduced four pieces of legislation amending the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, each one of which has progressively stripped vital Covid-19 protections from renters, including a ban on rent increases, notices to quit and evictions. Since August of last year, when one of those pieces of legislation was introduced, more than 2,000 rent warnings have been issued by landlords to tenants, but just 407 tenants have secured protections under the legislation by submitting written declarations to the Residential Tenancies Board. The fear that many of us have is not only that those tenants will face further rent increases, but that as the notices to quit come down the line we will start to see a slow, perhaps, but nonetheless steady, progression of notices to quit and evictions from the private rental sector and potentially and very unfortunately, if it happens, increases in family homeless presentations.
We also have a situation where there is still no real security of tenure. I do not think the Minister has been honest in his commitment to introduce tenancies of indefinite duration because I have yet to hear him commit to amendment of section 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, in which the real problem for tenants arises in that it allows landlords to issue notices to quit on grounds of sale or use of property by a family member. This provision is responsible for almost 80% of notices to quit. We know minimum standards are still not being properly enforced because local authorities do not have the staff to undertake the inspections and because we do not have an adequate certification system.
There is also an embarrassingly low level of investment by this Government in affordable cost-rental, at just €35 million this year to purchase from the private market 390 properties, which will be added to the 50 cost-rental already in the pipeline to be delivered by the former Minister, Eoghan Murphy. As we move towards the coming to an end of the failed Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael rent pressure zone legislation, it is clear that this Government, almost a year in office, has no plan to reduce rents, no plan to protect renters and no plan to end the crisis in the private rental sector.
There are solutions. Government is quick to suggest that the Opposition does not have solutions, but for five years we have been tabling legislation and Private Members' motions, some of which the current Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, supported when in opposition and others of which he opposed. We have regularly put forward solutions. What do they look like? We have to stop rents rising. We have to introduce an emergency three-year ban on rent increases and, following that, to link rents to an index such as CPI. We have to put money back in renters pockets. The quickest and easiest way to do that is a refundable tax credit. Sinn Féin's proposal would see a month's rent back in every renters pocket. During its election campaign, Fianna Fáil proposed a weaker proposal in its manifesto, but like so many of its election promises, it was quickly abandoned when it took office.
We also need investment in an affordable cost-rental, not a €35 million investment to produce a few hundred units. We need approximately €1 billion annually if we are to be on target to deliver, on average, 4,000 genuinely affordable cost-rental units each year of the lifetime of a Government. Affordable means rents of €700 to €900 per month, not the excessive rents of €1,200 or €1,300 per month which the current Minister is seeking to impose on working families. We need real tenancies of indefinite duration, by way of amendment of section 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. We need 25% of all rental tenancies to be inspected each year and we need an NCT-style certification system to ensure standards.
The purpose of the motion before us today is simple. It is time for this Government and Oireachtas to stand up for renters. We need a radical, but realistic and implementable, plan. Our motion outlines the bones of that plan. Not only do I commend this motion to the House. If we do not see these kinds of measures from this Government, yet again the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of its policies will be ever-growing. Fianna Fáil has never been on the side of renters. I suspect by its opposition to the motion, it will confirm that it will continue to be on the side of big landlords and big developers into the future.