That Dáil Éireann:
— the rental crisis continues to spiral out of control;
— the latest Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) rent index shows new rents increased by nine per cent State-wide;
— 14 counties experienced double-digit rent inflation;
— rents increased by 18 per cent in Westmeath, 19 per cent in Longford, 25 per cent in Waterford and 25 per cent in Roscommon;
— average new rents State-wide are €1,415;
— average new rents in Dublin are €1,972;
— rents in Dublin have increased 100 per cent since 2011;
— the private rental sector continues to shrink as accidental and semi-professional landlords exit the market; and
— vacant possession Notices of Termination are responsible for half of all evictions and are driving the increase in homelessness; and
calls on the Government to:
— introduce a ban on rent increases for existing and new tenancies for three years;
— introduce a refundable tax credit to put a month's rent back in every private renter's pocket;
— resource the RTB to properly enforce the Government's rent regulations;
— dramatically increase investment in the delivery of large volumes of affordable Cost Rental; and
— introduce real tenancies of indefinite duration.
The rental market continues to spiral out of control. The latest Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, rent report shows that rents increased by 9% last year. In 14 separate counties the rental increases for new rental tenancies was double-digit inflation. The worst affected counties were Roscommon and Waterford, with rental increases of 25% for new rentals. In Dublin we have seen the end of the Covid-19 flattening of rents, with a significant upward increase of 9% for new rents. This means that the average cost of a new rental in Dublin today is €23,634, which is an astonishing sum of money. If one tracks back through the RTB reports, since 2011 rents in the capital have increased by more than 100%. They have increased by approximately 15% since the Minister took office.
Behind all of these figures there are very real people. The impact of these rising rents is very severe. A significant number of renters, and particularly those who are losing rental tenancies and trying to secure new ones, are experiencing severe financial hardship.
That is on top of all the other rising costs of living. We saw today, for example, newspaper stories about how one in four households are having difficulty purchasing groceries. Some 73% of households surveyed in the most recent RED C poll indicated that they were spending less each week on groceries to make money go further. Of course, we know the impact of the rising cost of fuel, home heating, petrol etc. We also have large numbers of people who are simply unable to save for a deposit or have to go through extraordinary measures to do that. There are also those older renters and people who have lost a family home because of a relationship breakdown who are back in the rental market and are facing an increasingly precarious future.
The Minister knows only too well from Friday's homeless report that the crisis in the private rental sector is also driving levels of homelessness and leading to rising levels of presentations. Approximately 50% of all notices to quit are vacant possession notices from landlords selling up. It has also led to a dramatic collapse of more than 50% in exits in the last year as people simply have nowhere to go once they are in emergency accommodation.
The question we must ask is why is the rental crisis getting worse? My clear view is that it is Government policy. There has been an over-reliance on the private rental sector for social housing and the housing assistance payment, HAP, or rental accommodation scheme, RAS, placing enormous pressure on limited supply. There has been a failure to deliver cost rental over the last three years with zero in the first year, 65 last year and possibly 700 this year depending on the numbers. It is nowhere close to the thousands that are required. There is an exclusive focus, particularly in Dublin, on high-end lower-design quality build-to-rent, which is saturating so much of the market. Outside of Dublin, literally nothing new to rent is coming on the market. Of course, as the Minister knows, single-property landlords are leaving in droves.
This cannot continue. It must stop. We need a radical change in direction. The measures outlined in our Private Members' motion today signal just that. We need the emergency ban on rent increases for three years. Renters cannot take any more. We must reduce rents by putting at least one month's rent back in people's pockets through a refundable tax credit, which is something the Minister was in favour of before the election but on which he has gone silent since. We also need to introduce real tenancies of indefinite duration, not the smoke and mirrors change the Minister introduced last year. Crucially, we need at least 4,000 cost rental tenancies annually. For decades, housing policy experts and advisers to Government have been saying we need cost rental on scale. The Minister is not even going to reach that scale at the end of 2026 because he is only targeting 2,000 units by then, which is nowhere close to enough.
With respect to the rising levels of homelessness, we urgently need the Minister to reintroduce the tenant in situ scheme. I know he announced some increased level of flexibility. I am not convinced that is what our local authorities need. I would welcome if the Minister could expand on that. Local authorities need to be told to use the capital budgets that have been allocated, subject to cost ceilings and the quantity surveyor's reply. If any family with a HAP or RAS tenancy is at risk of homelessness, subject to the usual rules, the local authority should step in, purchase the home and prevent them from becoming homeless.
I must say, the Minister's record over the last two years speaks for itself. He is not doing enough, and the crisis is going to continue to get worse. One of the worrying trends in recent times is that the Minister keeps blaming everybody else. He blames Covid-19, inflation and Ukraine. On the Gavin Reilly show, he seemed to be blaming migrants coming into the State. If that is the case, it is a very retrograde step. Like former Minister Eoghan Murphy before him, the Minister's policies are the core of the problem. They must change and if they do not change, we are going to have to get him out of office because that is what renters desperately need and rightly deserve.