The front of this morning’s newspaper editions reminds us again of the severity of the rent crisis and of how an entire generation is locked out of affordable, secure housing. Rents have doubled in the last decade. The average rent statewide now stands at an eye-watering €1,443 per month. That is, of course, a shocking figure but will not come as a shock to those caught up in the crisis. They feel it in their pockets every day.
We now have the first generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are worse off than their parents. The rent crisis that we and they face is the result of the bad housing policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. It is happening because people who should have been able to buy their own home years ago are trapped in the private rental market. Families who should be in public housing, paying fair rents, are trapped there too. We know that wealthy investment funds, empowered by the Government's cushy tax deals, are snapping up family homes, renting them to those families at extortionate rates and all the while pushing up house prices.
These are the same funds that have been buying up city apartment blocks for years and charging sky-high rents for those too. Rising rents outside Dublin will no doubt act as an incentive for these funds to buy up housing, not alone across the commuter belt, but also into our regional cities.
Yesterday, I asked the Taoiseach very plainly about his plan to tackle these vulture funds. He did not answer me, however. I can only surmise that he does not have a plan and that he proposes to sit on his hands. The Taoiseach's weak response tells these funds they certainly have nothing to fear from his Government. Not only does the Taoiseach not have a plan of his own, he will also reject the plans of others. This evening, Fianna Fáil and its partners in Fine Gael will block proposals to tackle these investment funds. Government is also lining up to vote against a plan to cut rents and stop rent increases for three years. How on earth can the Taoiseach say with a straight face that his policy is not to support these investment funds? I suggest that what he must do here is not rocket science. If I were Taoiseach, I would first end the tax advantages enjoyed by these institutional investors and get them to pay their fair share of corporation tax and capital gains tax. Second, I would impose a stamp duty surcharge on the purchase of residential property by these investor funds. Third, I would introduce emergency legislation to stop these funds bulk buying residential developments. That is what the Taoiseach should do but his answer to each of those sensible, necessary proposals is "No", "No", "No".
Is this why the Taoiseach led Fianna Fáil back into government, to allow Fine Gael to continue to call the tune on housing? This is a kick in the teeth for those robbed of the opportunity to buy a home by these funds and who in turn are being charged massive rents by them. The Taoiseach said that housing is his number one priority but we still wait for his Government to do anything meaningful that will make a difference. Almost a year into this Government, the Taoiseach remains wedded to policies that prioritise developers and investors over ordinary people. That needs to stop because housing must be affordable again.
I ask the Taoiseach this evening to do the right thing. I ask him not to block the proposals that will make a difference but to support them and then to implement them.