I have raised with the Taoiseach time out of number the matter of the extortionate rents that workers and families are paying. They hand over an extraordinary proportion of their hard-earned cash to landlords every month. As a result of this, an entire generation is locked out of home ownership. Let us face it: they do not stand a chance of saving for a mortgage deposit while forking out up to €2,000 in rent every month.
This was the case long before Covid-19. However, the pandemic has hit generation rent hard. Many renters lost their jobs and were prevented from going to work. They have seen their incomes collapse. Many are not back at work yet. On top of colossal rents they now face the prospect of the Government cutting their income supports.
Yet, the bills keep coming thick and fast. Renters are really struggling to keep their heads above water. As if this was not bad enough, tenants could be hit with a hike of up to 8% when the Government withdraws emergency protections next month. This arises because of a loophole in the disastrous rent pressure zone legislation that will allow renters who did not endure a 4% increase last year to be hit on the double with a double whammy this year. Renters are already being fleeced so any increase in these extortionate rents will literally break the backs of workers and families.
I come in here every week and ask the Taoiseach to show up for struggling renters. We in Sinn Féin have made proposals that would make a real difference. We asked the Government to cut rents by putting one months' rent back into the pocket of each renter. The Government said "No". We asked the Government to legislate to ban rent increases for a period of three years and the Government said "No". We asked the Government to stop apartments being bought up by investment funds that drive up rents and the Government said "No". In fact everything that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party do makes life easier for big landlords and investment funds and makes life so much harder for ripped-off renters.
This is not only a social crisis but an economic one. The Taoiseach should know there is real concern within the business community that the lack of affordable accommodation for workers will stifle the chances of making Dublin and other cities living cities that will drive our national recovery. I have been talking to representatives of the chambers of commerce in Galway and Dublin in recent days. They reflect this strongly.
This has to change fast. The Taoiseach cannot allow 8% increases in rents. In fact, he cannot allow any increase in rent. There are solutions. There are things he could do today to protect renters. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, says he plans to bring a Bill to the Dáil in the autumn to replace the 4% increases permitted under the rent pressure zone legislation. This will be far too late for renters. This legislation needs to be fast-tracked now. The Minister needs to bring the Bill before the Dáil before the summer recess. A ban on rent increases for three years must be part of that legislation. The Taoiseach also needs to reinstate the full ban on evictions until the end of the year at least. These are the kinds of things that need to be done now to give generation rent a chance of recovery and a shot at making it.