I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
As the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, will know, the number of adults and children living in emergency accommodation funded by his Department is rising. In October there were 6,317 adults and 2,513 children in such accommodation. As we all know, those figures do not capture the full extent of homelessness. They do not include women and children in domestic violence refuges funded by Tusla, adults and children in hostels not funded by the State or former asylum seekers who, thankfully, have secured their leave to remain but who are trapped in direct provision, essentially using it as emergency accommodation. Whatever way you count it, homelessness is, unfortunately, getting worse. More and more people are being forced out of their homes and into emergency accommodation or, in many instances, relying on the generosity of family and friends for a couch to sleep on. At this rate we may be back to pre-Covid levels of homelessness within a matter of months. The Minister will remember that when he was on this side of the House, his predecessor, Eoghan Murphy, stood over homeless figures rising to beyond 10,000 for a number of months. With 8,830 adults and children sleeping in hostels and hotels in October we are, unfortunately, dangerously close to that number.
The Minister's decision some months ago to lift the Covid-19 ban on evictions is the main reason we see these numbers increase but it is only a small part of the story. Figures from the Residential Tenancies Board show that the number of notices to quit issued by landlords each month is rising, with sale of property accounting for more than half of all evictions. Since 2017, accidental and semi-professional landlords have left the market in droves. We have lost over 21,000 rental tenancies as of the end of last year and when the figures for this year are published I suspect the number will be worse again. Despite this haemorrhaging of rental supply, the Government has no plan to slow down this disorderly exit of such properties from the market. In fact, local authorities currently cannot even buy rental properties with HAP or RAS tenants in them where the landlord is selling up, even where the landlord is willing to sell to the local authority. We see a new trend of those tenants being displaced, the properties going on the market and medium-sized institutional investors buying them and then leasing them back to the local authority for 25 years for another social housing tenant. As supply continues to fall, rents, as we all know, continue to soar. I will not repeat the figures from the latest Daft.ie report or the RTB rent index, but a household would need a monthly take-home pay of between €4,500 and €6,000 to be able to afford average State-wide rents or Dublin city rents. The Government's over-reliance on the private rental sector to meet social housing need is coming back to bite it with a vengeance and, unfortunately, the slow supply of social housing is also having an impact. We know Covid is a significant factor in that but it is not the full picture. Only 35% of the targets in this year's social housing output were met by the end of quarter 3. Procurement tendering and public spending code issues are delaying larger projects and the Government has to admit that and we have to address it.
At a time when homelessness is increasing, it is incumbent on this House to speak with a unanimous voice and to say that homeless prevention has to be the key. We need to ensure that every single tool is made available to families at risk of homelessness. The local authorities and the non-governmental organisations assisting them to meet that need and, thankfully, the Simon Communities of Ireland have come up with a very simple and sensible Bill. If enacted, it would ensure that where a family or individual meets the notice to quit date and has not been able to find alternative accommodation, they would get a three-month stay for the local authority to work with them directly to ensure they do not fall into homelessness. The Bill has cross-party support. It was launched last week by five of the groups in opposition. I understand that the Minister supports the principle of the Bill and I welcome that. I urge the Minister to give in his remarks a very clear commitment that, just like with the USI Bill passed by the Opposition, he will come back and work with the Simon Communities of Ireland and the Opposition early in the new year and introduce an improved version of the very same principle, if possible, into Government legislation. That would be the quickest and most efficient way of ensuring that this important protection for families and singles at risk of homelessness be enacted. If the Minister is willing to do that, we will work with him and be constructive, as we always have been. Let us make 2022 the year of preventing homelessness and reducing the number of families and children in emergency accommodation.