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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 13 Jul 2022

Vol. 1025 No. 4

Rent Reduction Bill 2022: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am sharing time with Deputy Paul Murphy. The Title of the Bill should make clear what we are trying to achieve here. For the vast majority of people who are impacted by the current housing crisis, the need for a Bill that will reduce the extortionate, frankly obscene and completely unaffordable rent levels is more than patently obvious, and this Bill attempts to do that. It seeks to bring rents back to levels that will be affordable for ordinary working people because they have reached an utterly unaffordable level. The consequences of that are utterly disastrous for some, with record numbers of families, individuals and children forced into homelessness, overwhelmingly because they simply cannot find anywhere that is affordable within the housing assistance payment, HAP, limits if they are eligible for the HAP, and of course, huge numbers of people who desperately need help meeting the extortionate rents they are being charged are not even eligible. Because they have crept a few euro over the income eligibility threshold, they are not entitled to any support and are expected to pay rents that are off the Richter scale in terms of affordability for the vast majority. I refer not just to low-earning workers but even to people who earn pretty decent wages and salaries.

That is what the Bill is trying to do. It is a matter of absolute urgency that something of this sort be done, and I will now set out the manner in which we will do it. We propose that a national rent authority be set up and that this authority ensure that landlords cannot charge more in rent than 25% of the median household income, whether the national or local median household income, whichever is the lower, given we do not want people in low-income areas to be charged rents based on incomes in high-income areas. The broad principle is that people will not spend more than 25% of their income on putting a roof over their head. We propose that any newly constructed house or apartment, once the Bill has passed, that is going to rented out will immediately be subject to this rent control and the landlord will not be able to charge more than the median household income, as set by the national rent authority. For rental property that already exists and that, almost invariably, costs considerably more than that, the landlord will have one year to bring the rent back to that level, after which all rental property will be subject to that rent control. We make an exemption for luxury properties because, frankly, we do not want to control the rents that are paid by the super-rich, where they might rent luxury penthouses. We have no particular interest in protecting them against those rents or ensuring they will pay rents that would be far lower than their income would allow. We are interested in protecting rents for ordinary people.

The need for this is self-evident. Average national rents are now in excess of €1,500 a month. That means a person needs to earn about €17,000 a year just to pay rent, which is about 45% of the median income. They are the national rents; the picture gets far worse when we look at Dublin, where the average rent is now €2,000, or €24,000 in after-tax income required just to pay rent. More than 50% of the national median household income is what is being asked for. It gets even worse in my area, where in the past six months average rents were €2,600. That is absolutely obscene. This is totally unsustainable and we can see the consequences, with the homelessness figures rising week on week. Of course, the main feature of the surge in homelessness we are seeing at the moment, in almost all the cases I am dealing with, is that it is people who are working who are being made homeless. They are often two working people in one household and still they cannot afford the rents out there.

In many cases, such people are not eligible for social housing support because the Government and previous Governments, for ten years, have refused to raise the income eligibility thresholds in what is clearly a deliberate strategy to make it look as though fewer people are in need of social housing support when, in fact, it is self-evident that more people than ever before need social housing support. The proportion of households that are entitled to social housing support, as the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, recently documented, has dropped dramatically. Whereas 47% of households ten years ago were eligible for social housing support, that figure had fallen to 33% by 2019, and while we do not have figures for what it is now, it is clearly well south of that. The number of people who are getting help is lower than ever before and is being reduced constantly in a stealth cut, whereas the need for that support is greater than ever and we are facing a dire situation for huge numbers of families.

It is equally evident that this is a uniquely disastrous failure of the Government in this country. ICTU, in its recent publication on the social wage, showed that accommodation costs in this country are 78% higher than the EU average.

While rents have gone up by about 13% across Europe over the last decade, here they have gone up by over 70%. In my area, they have gone up by over 100%. This is a unique failure of Irish Governments, way beyond the failure of governments in other countries.

When we raised this issue yesterday with the Taoiseach, he said the legislation would not fly, was "illiterate" and could not be done. Strangely enough, they do it elsewhere in Europe. Is it not very odd that they have succeeded elsewhere in preventing this kind of dire housing crisis and these extortionate, obscene increases in rent levels? It is not that rents have not gone up in Europe, but they have not gone up to anything like the levels they have reached here. That is because other countries have rent controls. In France, they have recently introduced further rent controls whereby if they see rent reaching levels beyond what is affordable for ordinary people, they cap them with maximum rents. In the Netherlands, where rents are too high there is a legal power to reclassify housing as social housing and charge social housing rents. Germany has a rent control regime in place whereby if rents in particular areas are way out of sync with other parts of the country, they can be controlled, capped and brought back down to reasonable levels. The United States has multiple forms of rent controls. The idea this cannot be done is not true. Are we open to amendments that would tweak how we do this? Of course we are, but we want to establish the urgent need and viability of introducing a regime that ensures people can afford the rents being charged. It is done elsewhere and can be done here.

The reason the Government does not want to do it is the same reason we have a housing crisis in the first place. It is because its housing and rental policy is being dictated by propertied interests, including developers, speculators and investors, rather than by the needs of our people for secure, affordable rental accommodation.

Yesterday, when questioned about this at Leaders' Questions , the Taoiseach said if we passed this Bill to reduce rents for ordinary people, there would be no landlords left in Ireland. Across the country, thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people who are struggling to pay €2,000 or €2,500 of rent per month and others who live at home well into their late 20s or 30s because they cannot afford to rent are thinking "Taoiseach, don't threaten us with a good time". The Taoiseach's comment encapsulated in one sentence the ideology and approach of the Government to housing, which is that the only conceivable way to provide homes for people is not to consider housing as a basic right but as a commodity that must be provided for profit in the market. That is the essence of the Government's approach to housing. We have to incentivise developers to build homes for profit by shovelling public money at them and we have to incentivise landlords to provide the service they provide by not saying rents should be linked to what people can afford to pay but that landlords are free to charge whatever the market says they can get away with. That is the essence of the Government's approach.

It begs the question of what service landlords provide. What wealth do landlords produce in this economy? What added benefit is created by having a class of landlords? Nothing. That is the truth. There is no benefit in having this layer of corporate landlords in our society. Big corporate landlords, as a class, are parasitical on the economy. They take money generated by workers creating wealth out of the economy and keep it for themselves. Almost €1 billion per year in various State supports - public money - goes into the pockets of landlords. Billions of euro from ordinary workers go into the pockets of landlords, and that amount of money has exploded over the past ten years.

Let us say, hypothetically, that the Taoiseach is right and if we pass a law providing that rents should be at a level people can afford to pay, which is a very radical idea, the Taoiseach's nightmare scenario transpires and every landlord in the country leaves the market. What will they do? Will they pack up the apartments into their bags and go off to wherever they go? Will they strap the houses to their backs and go to America or Germany where the corporate landlords are based? They cannot take their properties with them.

The key point is what will happen to the tenants. We have no problem with small landlords but if small landlords cannot afford to operate on the basis of renters being able to afford to rent and not being crucified, then the State should agree to buy those homes at market rate from the small landlords who want to get out and turn that into public housing, keeping the tenants in situ. There you go - there is no longer a crisis. When it comes to corporate landlords, IRES REIT, Kennedy Wilson and the rest of them, we should follow the example of what the people in Berlin voted to do by expropriating and nationalising this housing. It does not provide any social use for ordinary people. We should take it into public ownership and turn it into public housing on the basis of affordable rents. We should create a universal model of public housing where housing is not treated as a commodity for profit but as a basic right for people. That is the difference of approach between us, thinking about the interests of ordinary people, and the Government, saying we have to shape the market in such a way as to enable these people to make as much profit as possible.

There is a happy coincidence between the ideology of the Government and the self-interest of the class of landlords it represents, including the landlords in the Government and on its backbenches. Their interests all happen to coincide. This is not just a Government for landlords; it is a Government by landlords. Last night, the Government won the motion of confidence by 19 votes. By my calculation, if the landlords of this House had not voted, the Government would have lost that vote. The same will presumably apply when we vote on this Rent Reduction Bill this evening. If the landlords in the House absented themselves and said, as they should, that they cannot vote on this because this is voting about whether-----

All across the House. The vast majority of the landlords are on the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael side and among the Independents who voted with the Government. If those landlords absented themselves tonight, as they should, and said it is too much to do with them, will impact their income and that it is clearly inappropriate for them to vote, there is every chance this Bill would pass.

It is worth looking at who these landlords are. Rory Hearne did very good work recently outlining the reality of these corporate landlords. IRES REIT, the largest private landlord in Ireland, owns close to 4,000 homes. US property corporate Kennedy Wilson owns close to 3,300 rental apartments. Irish property investor Urbeo is developing build-to-rent units, advertised as studio units, in Citywest in my constituency for €1,500 per month and two-bed apartments for €2,000 per month. US fund Greystar pre-bought 342 apartments being built in Griffith Avenue and advertises for a one-bed at €2,140. Rory Hearne also cites CSO data on new-build activity in Dublin in the first three months of this year showing that 1,151 newly built units were sold. Of these, first-time buyers bought just 217, or 19%. Non-household purchasers, overwhelmingly investor funds and REITs, bought 726, or 63% of all new builds in Dublin in the first quarter of 2022.

These corporations are getting massive public funds. IRES REIT got €8.7 million in rental income from the State via HAP in the first half of 2021. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have turned the Irish State into a vast funnel through which it can direct public moneys to landlords.

The Housing for All plan is completely dependent on the private market and on global investor vulture funds in particular. Of the €12 billion a year required to build the planned 33,000 homes each year, €10 billion will come from private capital sources. Of this, the "majority will be required from international sources", coming from well-established investors. The private market and investors are to provide 83% of new homes, with the State playing a small role and providing less than one fifth of all new builds. This encapsulates the disaster of the for-profit market and the commodity-driven approach to the housing crisis, which is why the crisis gets worse and worse day by day, week by week and month by month.

I presume we will hit the Government bingo later on and that the Minister of State will say this is unconstitutional as it interferes with the right to private property. We dispute that. We think the Government should do this and should then defend the case in the Supreme Court if that is where it goes. Even if the Government is right, that is precisely why we have introduced a Bill to insert the right to housing into the Constitution. We think the vast majority of people out there would agree that the right of ordinary people to housing comes before the supposed right of vulture funds, cuckoo funds and others to maximise their profits.

The Government won the confidence motion last night but I still do not think it has the confidence of ordinary people. As the slogan of the Arab Spring goes, what the Parliament does the streets can undo. This is now a weak Government. It is a Government that can be pressured and pushed from below if we manage to build a cost-of-living and housing movement like we did with the water charges. Such a movement, which will be holding a protest at 5 o'clock today in front of the Dáil and a major national protest on Saturday, 24 September, can force concessions out of this Government. At a certain time it will bring this Government down and open the possibility of a Government that does not govern in the interests of the big corporate landlords but instead in the interests of ordinary renters.

I thank the Deputies for bringing forward this Bill. However, the Government will be opposing it. Aside from its technical and practical operational shortcomings, it would in all likelihood quickly face significant risk of legal challenge and is likely to have a severely detrimental effect on the supply of much-needed rental property. The Government is acutely aware that rents are very high in many areas as a result of pent-up pressures and supply constraints. The most effective way to assist renters is to increase supply and accelerate delivery of housing for private renters, including for cost rental and social housing. While supply builds, the Government has in place legally permissible and targeted measures to control rents.

It is not clear to me from this Private Members' Bill but I suspect the potential impacts of this Bill have not been adequately considered or proofed from a legal or economic perspective. The reduction of rents in an arbitrary fashion is not going to increase the supply of rental accommodation and is highly likely to fall foul of the Constitution. Supply is our constraint. Rents rise if demand outstrips supply. This Bill will not stop landlords leaving the sector or encourage new landlords to enter the market. We all want affordable rents for people but we must recognise the need to secure the provision of additional supply of rental accommodation. The Government has to strike a balance between restricting the level of rents tenants are paying and keeping ordinary landlords in the system. The Government seeks balance and fairness in residential rental accommodation. We will carefully examine and consider any impending proposals from the Housing Commission, including from a housing tenure perspective. The simple fact is we need residential rental accommodation. We need landlords. The Deputies proposing this Bill will be aware of the exodus of small landlords from the market and the effect this is having on tenants and tenancies. We are all aware of people seeking our assistance as their landlord has served them a notice to quit because they are selling their house. We need to support small landlords to remain in the market while we increase supply. Unfortunately, this Bill would do the opposite.

We need strong regulation and enforcement to deal with any unlawful activity in the sector, including the setting of unlawful and unaffordable rents. Only 2% of all tenancies become subject to dispute resolution in the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB. Redress is available to all tenants and all registered landlords through the RTB. The Government has a proven record in quickly addressing pressures on rents. The Residential Tenancies (No. 2) Act 2021 introduced measures last July to extend the operation of rent pressure zones, RPZs, until the end of 2024 and to prohibit any necessary rent increase in an RPZ from exceeding general inflation, as recorded by the harmonised index of consumer prices, HICP. From 11 December 2021, the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act 2021 caps rent increases in RPZs at 2% per annum pro rata, when the HICP inflation rate is higher. The 2% cap remains necessary and effective in the context of fast-rising inflation. Data from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, for May 2022 show HICP inflation of 8.3% while the flash estimate for June 2022 is 9.6%. Therefore, under the current law, a potential rent increase of 9.6% in line with inflation is capped at 2%. This cap has resulted in far lower rent increases, where they were sought, for the estimated 75% of all tenancies covered by rent controls. These Government measures are legally sound. I do not believe the same can be said for the measures in this Bill.

I will address the substantive issues with this Bill. The key aim of the Bill, via section 2, is to reduce rents by limiting them to not greater than 25% of local monthly nominal median household disposable income for households of the relevant size or 25% of local national nominal median household disposable income for households of the relevant size, whichever is the lower, as determined by a national rent authority. The Bill seeks to establish this new State body at additional cost to the Exchequer. I am not clear on how the body is to interact with the RTB or whether any interaction is proposed. The Bill provides for the State body to be comprised of tenant and employee representatives. I do not see the necessary balance, independence or fairness in the Bill generally but the proposed composition of the new State body is of particular concern.

The Bill also seeks within 12 months to reduce, if necessary, existing rents to no more than 25% of disposable income. An exemption to the blanket rent restriction is to be provided for luxury accommodation. The Bill proposes to empower the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to make regulations to establish a new State body whose functions will include determining the criteria for the designation of certain properties as luxury accommodation. No more than 5% of all accommodation can be so designated in any local area. Other Deputies across the House would agree it would be more appropriate to establish any new State body through primary law debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Costs to the Exchequer will arise in the operation of a new State body and its establishment would need to be on a sound legal footing. The proposed method of determining rent price ceilings by linking them to household size could incentivise landlords to favour larger households and would bring a risk of overcrowding.

I stand over the Government’s actions to date to enhance the operation of the rental market. Our interventions and the actions we are taking are comprehensive, targeted and legally sound. As Deputies will know, a key element of existing policy centres on the designation of RPZs in areas where rents are highest and increasing most. The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 introduced a rent predictability measure to moderate rent increases in those parts of the country where rents are highest and rising fastest. The Residential Tenancies (No. 2) Act 2021 introduced measures in July 2021 to extend the operation of RPZs until the end of 2024.

The current rent pressure zone rent increase cap of 2%, where the inflation rate is higher, is a considerable advancement since 2016. No rent set can exceed market rent. The RTB continues its work in resolving tenancy disputes. Lawful rent setting is being enforced. The Government will be addressing the rising costs in the upcoming budget and is fully aware of the affordability challenges being faced by people throughout the country, including by renters.

I do not believe that the Bill before us would ultimately help renters. Forced rent reductions would negatively impact on the supply of rental properties, ultimately building further pressure on rent levels. It would drive many small landlords out of the market and it would direct more tenants into homelessness. The measures introduced by the Government to date provide timely, effective and proportionate responses to help all tenants in rent pressure zones. Tenants outside of rent pressure zones can have their rent increased every second year, which provides rent certainty for at least two years. Aside from the legal issues, the Government believes that a blanket reduction of rents could be counterproductive. It puts a significant risk on the investment in the supply and upkeep of rental properties.

I genuinely thank all the Deputies for their contributions on the matters put forward in this Bill. The Minister, Deputy O'Brien, and the Government are working very hard to try to put forward a comprehensive response, through Housing For All, to this huge challenge being faced by the State.

With regard to comments made at the start by Deputy Boyd Barrett and Deputy Murphy, they will be happy to hear that I am not a landlord. I do not know what data the Deputies have on the Opposition Members and where the largest landlords in the State are among representatives in this House. It is absolutely incredible to state that a majority of this Dáil, which last night voted confidence in this Government, is anything to do with the composition of its Members and their backgrounds. All of us in this House are elected by the people. They have the ultimate control around who represents them in this democracy. I hear the Deputies, week in and week out, elegantly talking about the rental issue. I wonder how many more housing units the Opposition will object to for visual amenity reasons? It is more than 1,000 at this stage in their own communities. This really prevents people trying to get stable housing and stable tenancies. As a Government, we are trying to increase supply while the Deputies opposite are trying to stop it. It is the reverse of what we are trying to do. We are all meeting people in our clinics and our constituencies throughout the country who are very frustrated. The Opposition is focused on sound bites and coming in here to shout every single week-----

Not shouting; projecting.

-----but they are putting forward no solutions. At least they are consistent in one thing: object, object, object.

The Minister of State's intervention is totally illogical. He has just said the Government's interventions in housing are targeted, legally sound and effective. Is this why, when polled and asked, the majority of people in the State say that housing is the number one issue for them? Is this because the Government has been so successful in its targeting, its legally sound legislation, its timeliness and its effectiveness? It does not add up.

There is a theme in this Government that any alternative proposed by the Opposition is a fantasy, unrealistic, unworkable and, worse, is not politically real or serious, unlike the great statesmen and women of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. There is a phrase, TINA, which means "there is no alternative". Margaret Thatcher used this frequently. She meant there was no alternative to capitalism, no alternative to the market, no alternative to mass unemployment or to the devastation of people's living conditions. I believe the Government and its Deputies are the children of Thatcher’s politics, which is the political and economic view that says we cannot interfere in the market or in the need of corporations to make profits. Today we say loudly and clearly that there is an alternative; there must be. Whether it is housing, the health crisis or the climate crisis, the market is not the answer. The market is often the cause of the crisis. There is an alternative, and there must be, for the more than 60,000 renters who are spending more than 30% of their income on rents, for those in Dublin who now routinely spend 60% of their income on rent, and for the more than 300,000 people in private rental accommodation who are dreading the next rent hike or a possible eviction notice.

A proposal to reduce by law the rents inflicted on people may be greeted by the Minister of State and the Deputies in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael with fainting and gasps of horror. They may say the Opposition is illiterate and that it will drive the poor suffering landlords out of the market. This is odd when daily we are told they are already leaving the market and at a time of historically high rents. The Minister of State might need smelling salts when trying to rubbish this proposal. Horror of horrors, we want to set rents by interfering with the market.

In 2016, we proposed a law that would set up fair rents, would ban increases and would reduce rents by linking them to income. One year later, the Fine Gael-led Government brought in rent pressure zones, but what has happened? We have had total failure. We repeatedly brought proposals to ban evictions during the housing crisis. Again, there was widespread fainting and gasping by the Government. We were told this would risk the utter destruction of the market, as we are being told again this morning. Then, in 2020 the Dáil legislated to ban evictions during the Covid crisis. I have a newsflash for the Minister of State: the sky did not fall in.

The Deputies opposite say we cannot interfere in the market. We can improve the lives of the people in this State. We can interfere in the rights of property and the rights of profit and, guess what, the Earth will keep spinning. What may happen and what should happen is that life becomes a little bit better and a little less unequal for tens of thousands of people. The world does not end with rent reductions or rent controls.

This is not 1980. This is not the era of Thatcher and Reagan. We can intervene in the market and we must do so, especially when it is inflicting huge misery and poverty on the people in this State. This proposal only appears revolutionary to the Government because it has a limited way in which it places the corporate landlords and their profits at the heart of what society does in a housing crisis.

We do not allow education provision to be determined by the market, nor should we. We do not allow access to life-saving medical care to be determined by the market, although we do to a certain extent. In Ireland, however, the right to access decent shelter and accommodation is determined in the private sector and the market. It is enshrined in laws of the State that the rents should be set and guided by the market. We must demystify the market. Currently, the market rent is not what people can afford and it is not about what people can voluntarily contribute. The market is about what landlords can extract. Unlike other products where prices are determined by the choices people make, people have no other choice in this regard. People need shelter as a basic for being able to live.

Rents have increased by 76% in the past 12 years because they can. This is a housing crisis where the State has failed to provide decent public housing for its people, and where the private rental market has forced up those rents and extracts every penny it can from ordinary, decent workers. While rents have gone up by 76% in 12 years, what has happened to wages or to welfare? The Government and the Minister of State would attack with glee any group of workers who would put in a pay demand for 76%. The Government would say those workers wanted to wreck the economy and bring down the State. The Government would talk of treason and of holding the State to ransom. When workers demand a pay rise of 10% let alone 70% or 80%, they are lectured on the perilous state of the country’s finances and told sternly that the Government could not give in to such blackmail. It is, however, no issue at all for the Deputies on the opposite benches if Hibernia, Irish Residential Properties REIT, or some corporate landlords boost their investor profits and expect returns that are multiplies of that sum. There appears to be no problem with profits or rents that hit the stratosphere.

In these 12 years when rents have risen by 76%, landlords have crammed people into sheds, into corridors, and into double beds with strangers. State subsides of private landlords by HAP, rent supplement, and RAS has hit €1 billion annually. Stories of websites advertising sex for rent are commonplace. We have not seen a single substantial or real improvement in tenants' rights or security of tenure. What has happened elsewhere? Did wages rise by 76% during this 12 years? Not according to the Central Statistics Office, which says the average industrial wage rose by less than 20%.

Did welfare rise by 76%? Not at all. According to the Department of Social Protection, welfare has risen by 10% in the past decade. What is so mystical about rents that the thought of controlling them by linking them to people's actual earnings evokes such a visceral reaction from the Minister of State and Deputies on the opposite benches? We need to provide decent public housing that is administered and that has rents linked to people's income, to what workers can actually afford. This Bill is more realistic, more grounded, and more based on real life than the ideology posing as realpolitik that I hear from the Government and its supporters.

In Dublin, one estimate is that a single person trying to rent would need a net income per month of €6,574. That is more than an annual gross salary of €100,000. Those in government are the real fantasists when they think that is a realistic option for the vast majority of workers today, or that the centre can hold when the centre is based on that sort of rental market.

It is an interesting question as to why this crisis has happened. The Minister of State has talked about various ways, but he did not mention the war in Ukraine. Members of Fianna Fáil sometimes like to say it is because they had to make very tough and brave decisions when they decided to bail out the banks. Fine Gael often likes to blame Fianna Fáil. It could also have been when the Labour Party and Fine Gael changed the laws to lure in real estate investment trusts, REITs, and vulture funds with promises of tax breaks. Alternatively, it could have been when Fianna Fáil rewrote the tax laws to allow various tax fugitives and exiles to rest their money here. Another possibility is that it was when the Government stopped building public housing. The simple answer to explain the housing crisis is that it is not really a crisis. It is policy - the very definite, thought-out result of political, economic and social decisions taken by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael through the decades to placate the corporate sector. The profits are not an unintended consequence of the housing policy. They are the intended consequence of commodifying housing, changing laws to lure investors and halting and denigrating public housing.

We have the consequences of policies that are entirely predicted by the politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael with their occasional little mates in the Labour Party or the Green Party. That amounts to 10,000-plus people in emergency accommodation, tens of thousands on the social housing list, and another 60,000 in receipt of HAP or other State support so as to have shelter tonight. These are victims of an entirely planned and thought-out economic and social policy. If that is allowed to continue, the future disaster awaiting the next generation is also foreseeable. The ESRI recently looked over the hill and was able to tell us that for those aged 44 to 55 currently in rented accommodation, the future is absolutely dire. They will be in insecure and unaffordable accommodation when they near retirement. They will be unable to carry the burden of renting. The home ownership rate is dropping. If we continue down this road, the adults in this room, the Minister of State and his fellow Deputies, will be responsible for the failed policies that will deliver insecure rented accommodation, leaving tens of thousands of ordinary people and pensioners prey to the market and the whims of corporate landlords just to have shelter in old age. That is the future unless we challenge it. Unless we challenge the logic of the market and those who kneel before it like it was some god, we are in for big trouble for future generations. I remind the Minister of State that we live in a society, not a market, and that society needs shelter and decent accommodation as a basic right for all people.

Renters desperately need a break. Renters are paying rents that are far too high, and they are continuing to rise. Tenancies are increasingly insecure and there is a very significant rise in family homelessness, as evidenced in Dublin. The most recent daft.ie rent register shows that the cost of an average rent for a whole year is €24,000. In Cork city, the Taoiseach's constituency, the cost of an average rental is €16,000. In the Minister of State's constituency of Longford-Westmeath, in Westmeath it is €14,000 a year and in Longford it is €11,000. In those two counties we are seeing faster increases in rent in the past 12 months than in some of the larger urban areas.

Sinn Féin has long argued for a package of measures that would not only address the spiralling cost of rent but would ensure genuine affordability is built into the housing system in the medium to long term. We desperately need a ban on rent increases for all private sector tenancies, existing and new, for three years. After that, we need to link private rents to an index such as wages so that it follows the movement of people's earnings. We need to cut rents. Our proposition is to put a month's rent back in renters' pockets and to do so through a refundable tax credit. Crucially, we need a level of investment in affordable cost rental to deliver at least 4,000 cost rental units a year at prices that are genuinely affordable, not the €1,200, €1,300 or €1,400 a month proposed under the Government's plans.

We are supporting the Bill today. It has the same objective as ours, although it is trying to achieve it through a different mechanism. I wish to respond to the Minister of State's point about whether what is being proposed is legally sound. When we were developing our policy package, we looked at a set of proposals not unlike the ones in the People Before Profit Bill. We took extensive informal legal advice. The advice was that it could be constitutional unilaterally to reduce rents. However, there are some problems. One is that it would have to be in line with the proportionality requirements in the Constitution. Another is that there would have to be an appeals mechanism for landlords and that would be potentially cumbersome and slow to set up, which could lead to long delays before the reductions in rent could be introduced. We were also advised that even if we could get around those constitutional challenges with a formal appeals mechanism for individual landlords, we could run into breach of contract issues for existing tenants and, therefore, there could be a whole plethora of litigation against tenants in the Commercial Court. For those reasons, we took the view that the quickest and most effective way to give renters the relief they desperately need is through a refundable tax credit. Having said that, I think anybody on this side of the House who makes a proposal to try to assist renters deserves to have it properly scrutinised. While we do not necessarily agree with the same mechanism as our colleagues in the Opposition, we think it deserves to be considered in the committee, as well as for there to be further legal consideration. On that basis, we are more than happy to support the Bill.

The Minister of State used the word "effective" a little too much in his speech, and he did so with a straight face. The difficultly is that a private renter's response would be that nothing the Government has done in the past two to six years has been effective. That is why rents are continuing to spiral upwards and security of tenure is ever more precarious. That is also why landlords, in particular semi-professional and accidental landlords, are leaving the market in droves, leading to an increase in notices to quit and homeless presentations.

The Minister of State also said the most effective way to help renters is to increase supply. That is not the case. A third of renters should be in social housing. They are subsidised by HAP, RAS and rent supplement. They do not want to be in the private rental sector. At least another third of the 300,000 private rental tenancies should be in affordable housing - affordable purchase and cost rental, so if we were trying to design a proper housing system, our private rental sector would not be 20% of the total housing system but probably around 10%. In fact, what two thirds of renters need today is social and affordable housing, not more high-end, high-cost, build-to-rent supply.

The Minister of State says supply is our main constraint. That, again, is not the case. That is a woefully inadequate way of understanding the housing system. To fix the housing crisis, we need the right kind of supply at the right price in the right place. Allowing the private rental sector to determine the answers to those questions is the reason we are in the current crisis. A far greater level of direct State investment in social, affordable rental and affordable purchase homes, as outlined in the Raise the Roof motion, tabled by the Opposition last night, is the way to go. That would require 20,000 public homes, between social and affordable housing need, every single year for a decade, not the far lower number that is being provided for by the Government.

We are happy to support the Bill. We urge the Government to realise it is getting it wrong in the private rental sector. The sooner it realises that, the better, not just for us but, crucially, for renters who need that break.

I thank People Before Profit for the opportunity to discuss rents today. Already put to the pin of their collar, renters struggling with exorbitant rents are now even worse off during this cost-of-living crisis. Families simply cannot afford high rents on top of the increases in the cost of childcare, food and energy. What is the solution to reduce sky-high rents? One solution is to increase the supply of social, affordable purchase and affordable rental homes - public homes on public land.

I listened to the dog whistles from Government Deputies last night, with more guff coming out of the Minister's mouth today about Sinn Féin and others objecting to developments. We are opposed to sweetheart deals with developers for the building of private homes at unaffordable prices on publicly-owned land. This week, South Dublin County Council announced plans for the development of 266 public homes on public land as part of the Clonburris strategic development zone, SDZ. This development in Lucan will be broken into a mix of social, affordable purchase and cost rental homes. While some details relating to affordability need to be ironed out, it is a welcome step forward.

Before the Minister, Deputy O'Brien, gets out his yellow hard hat and shovel for the obligatory photograph, I want to give him some facts. The Clonburris strategic development zone includes 8,500 homes, built on a mixture of private and public land in the Clondalkin and Lucan area. There will be a phased process of construction infrastructure such as schools and transport links. I was the Sinn Féin lead on this development when I was on the council. I tabled a successful motion that would see more than 2,500 public homes be built. This was supported by People Before Profit and other members of the council. Government parties only wanted 850 public homes in this development. The Fianna Fáil party did not support the Clonburris SDZ for 8,500 homes. The Minister of State's party, and a current Fine Gael Deputy, went even further. Not only did she oppose the building of 8,500 homes, but the party went to An Bord Pleanála and delayed the process. It stood alongside developers and NAMA like an unholy trinity, delaying the building of these homes during a housing crisis. When the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, dusts off his hard hat and brings out the shovel for the publicity photograph, I ask the Minister of State to remember that his party and Government colleagues were against these 8,500 homes.

There is a perception that the rental crisis is just in cities and larger towns. I can categorically say that every town and village is impacted by this crisis. The Government's failure to tackle the escalating disaster is causing social and economic upheaval among our younger generation, leaving people with no chance ever to own their own home or save for a deposit. The latest reports on the rental market in Ireland show that my county, Wexford, had a staggering 14.2% year-on-year increase in rental prices. The report from the previous quarter showed a 15.7% increase. There is a clear upward pattern. These increases are piled up along with the cost-of-living crisis currently being borne by working people and their families. They are facing extortionate heating costs, with gas prices increasing by 29% and electricity prices increasing by 10.9% in August, as well as increases in carbon tax, rip-off insurance and soaring childcare costs, which are the highest in Europe. Grocery bills have increased by more than 20%.

Rents are continuing to rise. Logically, this will result in even more people returning to living in box rooms in their family homes or becoming homeless. The Government has failed to get to grips with this. Ordinary people, both young and old, are suffering the soul-destroying consequences. We look forward to debating this Bill further and working out the detail of how best we can achieve protection for renters and homeowners. Sinn Féin's solution to the rental crisis is a three-year ban on rent increases, followed by linking rents to an appropriate index, such as wages, coupled with a refundable tax credit to put a month's rent back in every private renter's pocket. We would combine this strategy with the delivery of 4,000 affordable cost rental units annually, through a significant increase in capital spending in budget 2023.

We believe these proposals would bring relief as soon as possible to citizens who are in dire need. They are hostage to a private rental market that is spiralling out of control. There are only so many times that Opposition Deputies can stand up in the Dáil to warn of these increases and their disastrous impact on the families who we represent. A change in policy is desperately needed. A true Government that really cares would take immediate action before another generation is let down. I thank People Before Profit for tabling this Bill. My party fully supports the principle of reducing rents and consolidating ways to do so in legislation.

We support the Bill. We see spiralling rents in every part of the country. I raised Knocknashee and Tobercurry with the Taoiseach a couple of months ago. People there were paying €800 a month in rent, then the landlord increased it to €1,500 a month overnight. That happened to ten people in a housing estate, because the landlord owned many houses there. The Government made an excuse that it is not part of a rent pressure zone, so there was nothing it could do about it. That is the situation for people in many parts of the country, with rents spiralling out of control. There are many decent landlords who keep rents at a reasonable rate, provided they have good tenants who look after the property with no problems. That is the case for many people.

There are landlords who will use every excuse they can to push rents through the roof. They are mainly doing that because of the example set by corporate landlords, which drives rents to exorbitant rates, especially in our cities. Many people are trying to rent in the city of Dublin, including people from the country looking for student accommodation, which is totally unaffordable. They might also try house shares, which have also become unaffordable. It is a serious crisis. The Government needs to recognise that soft talk will not solve this problem. We need real, determined action from the Government. The proposal in the Bill may be part of the solutions needed to drive change in this situation.

The other clear problem in the country that the Government has promised to address for so long is the income threshold for people to get on the housing list. It is very low in many parts of the country. It is absurd that a person has to be earning less than €25,000 per year to get onto the housing list in many counties. It is ridiculous and the Government needs to recognise that. We have to take action on these issues. If we do not take action on them, we will be left with a situation where matters continue to get worse. That is the experience of the vast majority of people across the country.

The Government has a choice to make. I hear the dog whistles about objections to houses. In the town of Ballinamore in my constituency, there is a little housing estate called Lahard. It is an old, county council housing estate, which has been there for years. Leitrim County Council proposed building ten houses on land at the far side of Lahard. Two councillors on Leitrim County Council opposed those ten houses being built. One was a local Fine Gael councillor and the other was a local Fianna Fáil councillor. All the other councillors supported it. In fairness, some were from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael too. That is the problem. We hear here that Sinn Féin is opposing the building of houses. In the vast majority of cases, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stand in the way of progress with social housing.

I thank People Before Profit for tabling this motion. Reducing rents in the private rental sector should be central to the Government's aims but it seems that a continuation of pro-developer subsidies is the main concern. The option of renting is impossible for more and more people. The latest report from daft.ie states that rents increased by 11.7% across the State in one year, from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022. In my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan, rents increased by 18.6% in Cavan and 12.6% in Monaghan in the same period. The number of evictions has risen dramatically since the start of the year. My constituency office has been inundated with people who are extremely distressed and have few or no options open to them because there are very limited options in the private rental market. Many of these are housing assistance payment, HAP, tenants, but the maximum HAP that can be received in Cavan is €490, for a couple or individual with three children. The council is not even sanctioning that, because the rents are too high, making it unsustainable for renters to pay the remainder of the rent, since it would drive them into poverty. Renters then go to the landlords to ask them to declare a lower rent so that they can claim HAP and pay the difference in cash. It is unbelievable and driving people into poverty.

Middle-income families are even worse off because they do not qualify for any sort of housing support. I agree with my colleague that the social housing thresholds must be raised. They have not been updated since 2011. It would give further relief to those close to the current thresholds who are unable to access social housing or housing supports. Sinn Féin tabled a proposal similar to this in May. We proposed a three-year ban on rent increases and linking rents to an appropriate index, such as wages, along with a refundable tax credit to put a month's rent back into private renters' pockets. Action needs to be taken now to address the rental crisis. It can be done. It just requires political will. This Government does not have that political will, let alone a plan.

This Bill amends the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 by limiting rents to a maximum to a quarter of monthly household incomes. Sinn Féin supports the objective of this Bill and has proposed a number of different ways to achieve it. Over the last decade, average rents have more than doubled. In the last year alone, rents in Kildare have increased by almost 8%, and by a whopping 112% since the crash. I note the Minister who sat there before the Minister of State said he wanted to see affordable rents. I wonder where because they are certainly not affordable in Kildare. They have long since exceeded the bounds of affordability. The average rent in Kildare is now €1,565 a month.

The daft.ie report shows the average monthly mortgage payment is just half the average monthly rent.

The Government has chosen to subsidise private landlords through the HAP scheme instead of funding local authorities to build homes. It just does not make sense. Rental yields on one-bedroom apartments for landlords in County Kildare exceed 10%, yet the Government is rolling out the red carpet for international investment funds. It is tripping over itself to make things easier for its developer friends. What about using the same initiative to find real solutions for struggling workers and families? Sinn Féin in government will stand with those who are struggling. We will introduce a tax break that will put a month's rent back into renters' pockets. We will ban rent increases for three years and introduce legislation to prevent evictions into homelessness.

There is an epidemic of homelessness. I am helping a large number of people who have received notices to quit in recent months. The situation is only going to get worse. I am dealing with a young woman who is living with her six-month-old child in emergency accommodation above a pub. There is a couple with four children aged under eight living in a single bedroom in a relative's home. I know of a single woman in homeless accommodation in Carlow who lost her job because she had no way to get to work on time. An abused spouse and her child were sent from Kildare to a refuge in County Louth. There are countless single men with addiction and mental health issues who have been abandoned to Kerdiffstown House to keep them out of sight and out of mind.

Homes should be for need, not greed. A home is a place to live, not something from which a profit is squeezed. The current situation is a disgrace and it needs to change. The Government is a disgrace for doing nothing about it.

I thank People Before Profit for the Bill bringing forward We agree it should proceed to Committee Stage and we, of course, support the principle of reducing rents in the private rental sector. There are issues to be teased out in committee but I urge the Government to allow the Bill to proceed.

Rents in Cork in the first quarter of this year were more than 10% higher than in the same period in 2021, with the average rent in the county up 111% from its lowest point. This is scandalous and it makes it extremely difficult for individuals and families to cope. In Cork city, rents have risen by 10.2% in the past year, with the average rent now €1,607 per month. How are ordinary workers and families supposed to survive and manage with rents like these? It is shocking that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Cork city currently stands at €1,112 per month. Is it any wonder that young people are considering whether they will stay here or how they can make a life here? The cost of renting a single room in Cork city centre is now €516 a month, on average, which is up 2.4%, with an increase of 10.6%, bringing the cost to €479 per month, in Cork commuter towns.

My generation of young people are locked into a permanent trap whereby they cannot afford either to rent or buy. This cannot continue. Renters need immediate support because people are being put to the pin of their collar. The Government is not putting forward serious solutions to solving the housing crisis. It is not committed to providing affordable rents for ordinary workers and families. Sinn Féin wants a three-year ban on rent increases and a month's rent put back in every private renter's pocket. We would combine this with the delivery, crucially, of 4,000 affordable cost rental units. The social housing thresholds, which have not been updated since 2011, must be raised. The cost of everything has gone up since then. Many people are being cut off by the thresholds, which I have raised with both the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan. Many people on modest incomes are being pushed off the list, even when they have been on it for ten or 11 years. They are losing that time, which is like money in the bank to those families. They are being cut off and put at a loss.

The Government does not have the ambition to solve the housing crisis. Sinn Féin has the solution that will provide affordable cost rental homes to ordinary workers and families in Cork and across the country.

Rents in this country have reached record levels and the situation in Dublin is a crisis. Rents are more than 50% higher than they were at the peak of the Celtic tiger in 2008. This is causing misery for my constituents in Dublin Bay North. We must conclude that the housing market has failed. We need much stronger State intervention to increase supply through the direct building of social and affordable housing. We need stronger controls on rent increases and we need to limit the causes of evictions. Even at this late stage of the rent crisis, the whole country still has not been designated a rent protection zone.

It is not too late for the Government to take some action. Tax rates on speculators need to rise rapidly. The calls for rent relief for landlords already enjoying record rent levels must be firmly rejected. The State needs to take on those engaged in land hoarding and speculation. Use must be made of compulsory purchase orders, the windfalls on development land must be heavily taxed and the LDA must be transformed into the dominant provider of affordable housing. If we want to reduce rents in this country in the long term, there is one clear way to do that. The Government must build tens of thousands of State-owned cost-rental units and destroy the business model of those who expect to make rack-rent profits from the rents paid by ordinary workers.

Since 2016, this House and the Seanad have debated a multitude of housing Bills and motions, many of them dealing with the issue of renters and the protections they need. The Labour Party in government froze rent increases for two years in 2015 but, since then, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have allowed record rises. In our Social and Affordable Housing Bill 2016, my party proposed to limit increases for new properties for lease to align with prices for comparable properties in a particular area. This would have stopped landlords evicting tenants or terminating leases in order to get a new renter in to pay the latest market rent. Fine Gael in government voted that Bill down in December 2016, with the abstention of Fianna Fail. As rents got higher and higher, we repeatedly called for a freeze on increases for a minimum of three years to allow supply to catch up. That was one of the key issues in the 2020 general election. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil refused to act. Landlords were allowed to set whatever rent they wanted for a new tenancy and to increase it by 4% a year for existing tenants.

The refrain from the Government parties was that our proposal was unconstitutional, despite it having been implemented by the Labour Party in government for two years from 2014. Whenever the Constitution is invoked on property rights, we should always remind ourselves what it actually states. It recognises a right to private ownership but it goes on to state in Article 43.2°:

1° The State recognises, however, that the exercise of the rights mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this Article ought, in civil society, to be regulated by the principles of social justice.

2° The State, accordingly, may as occasion requires delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good.

The principles of the common good and social justice are set out in the Constitution in reference to private property. When people can barely afford to live, when Irish rents are out of kilter with those in the vast majority of similar European countries and when more than 10,000 people are homeless in the State, we can all agree that a case for protecting the common good could be strongly made.

Our Residential Tenancies (Tenants' Rights) Bill 2021, which we introduced last September, would have massively restricted the grounds for eviction and frozen rent increases. The Minister made soothing noises at the time about working with us on it but nothing substantial happened. As a result of his failure to act, there is a plague of evictions now happening across the country as landlords seek either to sell properties at the top of the market or use any excuse to get their existing tenant out in order to put a new one in place. A commercial tenant has more rights if the shop he or she leases is sold than does a family when its home is sold by an investor. Why is this? It is because, for some reason, the Government believes the investor must be allowed to achieve the maximum price he or she can. Where is the common good in that, as laid down in our Constitution?

We all know the result of this lack of action. More than 10,000 people, and rising, are homeless, including 5,054 single people, 3,028 children and 1,366 families. A modern tragedy is happening right in front of us. Simple changes to the laws covering evictions would shield a lot more people. If the Minister wanted to change the law today, he could do so. He has no compunction about rushing through changes on electoral reform and planning but God forbid he do something to stop a family being evicted or a child going into homelessness. Why not change the law to make it binding that any landlord who wants to sell a house with an existing tenant must first offer it to the State? We should put in place a default compulsory purchase order law for people's homes whereby the seller would get the market price, the family would get security and the State would save on having to deal with another homeless case.

As I said during the debate on our Residential Tenancies (Tenants' Rights) Bill 2021 last September, it just makes us all wonder what is the priority of this Government. Whom in the housing market is it trying to protect? There is no equivalence between the danger the renter faces and the danger a landlord faces. We are constantly told that landlords are fleeing the market, but the number of households living in rented accommodation was more than 500,000 in 2020 and that figure has doubled over two decades. The State is subsidising the mortgages and profits of tens of thousands of landlords and investors through the HAP, rent supplement, RAS and other schemes because of decisions made by Fianna Fáil in the late 1990s to get out of the direct building of social housing. The consequence of that is that more than €1 billion of current spending now goes to vulture funds and private landlords instead of towards investment in assets that could provide multigenerational security. We can change that, but it will not happen through the continuous outsourcing of provision to developers that Fianna Fáil is once again engaged in. The State must build and it must challenge the for-profit driven housing model. We can change things, but it is clear that it will not happen under this Government or under this Minister.

The Social Democrats will support this Bill going on to Committee Stage. Any issues with it, technical or otherwise, can of course be engaged with then. While we would take a somewhat different approach in respect of solutions in this regard, we very much support the direction, intent and principle of this legislation.

There is a real lack of urgency from the Government on this issue. It seems to stem from a lack of a fundamental awareness of what is happening right now. We are probably within days of reaching a record in the number of people homeless. The official figures do not reflect the reality. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people who are homeless to get into emergency accommodation. With regard to the official figures for emergency accommodation, I am hearing reports from all around the country from people who are homeless and looking for emergency accommodation but who are being turned away by local authorities. They are being told that emergency accommodation is simply full and that they cannot access it. Some local authorities are coming up with a myriad of different criteria, which are all new and grossly unfair. Those local authorities are using these criteria to avoid providing emergency accommodation, as they are obliged to.

People living in tents are being refused access to emergency accommodation. Recently, I was assisting someone and Dublin City Council, DCC, stated this person could not prove homelessness. This was a person living in a tent and who had had this certified by one of the homeless outreach groups. Yet DCC was trying to say that the person had not provided proof of homelessness. This is how ridiculous this situation is getting and, therefore, the numbers for those in emergency accommodation do not in any way reflect the reality of the situation. Even regarding those numbers in emergency accommodation, however, we are probably within days of those reaching record levels. People are becoming homeless primarily because rents are so high and because of a lack of affordable supply and affordable rental supply. This is causing great misery and trauma. Children are living miles away from their friends and their schools. They have no stable home life, with their parents doing the best they can to support them and to hold down jobs in the middle of all of it.

We get the sense that this human trauma does not seem to impact sufficiently on the Government. It seems to be only economic arguments around housing that impact. It is only when we see the knock-on effects in respect of childcare providers not being able to provide places anymore for children, which means people not being able to get into the workplace or withdrawing from it, and when we see the issues affecting teachers or those working in the hospitality industry - and much of that sector is simply not opening at certain times because it cannot get workers - that we wonder if the Government will act urgently as a response to these issues. We do not, however, see urgent action from the Government on this issue.

I will address a couple of the points the Minister made. He spoke about landlords exiting, which is a real problem. There are two key drivers in this regard. One of them is capital appreciation and the rise in house prices. We heard news again today that house prices increased by more than 14% in the past year. This of course is driving many landlords to exit because this is a good time for them to realise the capital appreciation in the value of their homes and, therefore, if we want to stop them exiting, we must do something about rising housing prices and affordability in that context. Of course, though, one of the key drivers of landlords exiting in the past few years, which the Government does not mention when it addresses the problem, have been the measures that Fine Gael, and indeed the Labour Party, brought in between 2011 and 2014. There was an exemption to capital gains tax, CGT, for people who bought in as landlords or investors. That exemption could only be availed of if the landlord sold up before the end of 2021. Therefore, Fine Gael brought in these CGT exemptions that have been helping to drive landlords out. More than €500 million of CGT exemptions incentivised landlords to sell up and get out. No mention is made of this of course. When we are told that rent regulation is a problem, then, I feel that such an attempt to blame rent regulation for landlords exiting is a form of gaslighting, when in fact these CGT incentives have been a key part of it.

Let the Government not pat itself on the back too much in respect of RPZs and the associated regulations. There are two key problems with this aspect. The first is that all over the country those areas not in RPZs are not included in those measures. People have been faced with rent increases of up to 75% and 80% outside of RPZs. These people are living in areas that will never become rent RPZs because of the way the rules are written. In rural parts of the country, it is unlikely there will ever be a rent level that will exceed the average outside the greater Dublin area. This is how the rules are constructed. Therefore, for an area in County Donegal, for example, to become an RPZ, it would have to achieve an average rent level above those we see in Galway city, Cork city and Limerick city. Is it the Government’s policy that it will undertake no rent regulation in those parts of the country until the rents exceed the average, which include those city areas? That is absurd. Equally, however, many of these areas will never qualify as RPZs because there is not sufficient data. They do not have more than 30 new rental tenancies registered each quarter, which must be the case to qualify as an RPZ. These rules are, therefore, designed to fail. Regarding those areas where we have RPZs, let us be clear that a great number of breaches are occurring. Greystar was this week reported as seeking double-digit rent increases. It is already charging rents of between €2,140 and €5,220 per month in Dublin. Those are phenomenal rents.

Let us not kid ourselves that more and more supply at the higher end is doing any good. We can walk out of here, go down the quays and look at some of the high-end supply any evening. Later in the summer and during the winter evenings, we will see lights on in approximately one third of the apartments in those developments. We will never see lights on in the other sections of those buildings because they are empty and vacant. That can be seen in my constituency. There are high vacancy rates in the newer developments on Griffith Avenue. People on incomes of more than €80,000 have been turned away. Those people have been told they do not meet the financial criteria for those developments. Therefore, we need affordable supply and not high-end, high-rent supply that is left vacant. Data from the CSO told us that 20% of our rental supply was empty on census night. More than 35,000 rental properties were completely empty so what we need is affordable supply.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this legislation. When we are talking about rent reviews, we must discuss several aspects. Before I go any further, I must state that I have a vested interest. I have properties that I have rented out. We do, however, need to regulate rents.

We need to set standards that are fair for both the renter and landlord. A rent authority would probably be a good mechanism whereby someone with a fair-minded view could look at this and make sure that the rents being set are affordable and that landlords, especially accidental landlords, are not being pushed out of the market or forced to sell their property. When a property is put up for rent in my constituency, a significant number of people want it and that creates a supply-and-demand issue, which is not good. It is creating a false economy as well because it will not be sustainable for landlords to continue to receive these type of rents going into the future.

Some landlords and people with a second property are exiting the market and selling their properties. They have told me that there is no real glory in renting out a house, meeting all the regulations and dealing with tenants and all of that. We have to keep this argument balanced. I am aware of a few tenants who have not been fair when renting a property. The way they treated the property and landlord was not great. I have seen pictures in one case that show how they treated a house in which the landlord was left with a bill of approximately €14,000 to get the house back in rentable condition. That is a fact. It has happened on a number occasions and, therefore, the landlord is not the devil. Landlords are trying to do their best. Extortion is going on in terms current rents and how they are increasing and we need to do something about that.

I have received many complaints from landlords about the RTB in recent months. The fee is now to be paid annually as opposed to every three years. People find the payment system to be cumbersome and they say it is failing because properties are not being registered. If a cheque is sent in, the board denies that it was received. If the fee is paid online, the payment is taken from landlords' accounts but does not seem to be arriving in the RTB account or the system does not show that the landlords have conformed by paying their fee. Properties are not being registered properly by the board and it is creating angst among landlords. Will the Minister of State bring this back and look at what is going on because it does not look right? The RTB should do things properly. The board brought in a new system that it cannot use so how can it expect landlords to use it?

Going back to the basic point, rents should be set in a fair way for both the tenant and the landlord. Rents should be based on some sort of indexation so that rates do not fire ahead when supply becomes tight. This comes back to the original question of why we have high rents. It is because we are not delivering houses quickly enough in this country to make sure the supply is available. We need to do more on that.

I support the premise of the Bill. The idea that people are paying 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, and sometimes 70%, of their income on rent is incredible. There needs to be a tight relationship between the income people earn and the rent they pay for accommodation. This proportion is way out of whack in terms of people's ability to live. The Bill seeks to reduce rents by limiting them to a maximum of a quarter of the monthly income of a household. That would be a fair level across society in terms of what people should be paying and it is not the case now.

Rents are on average €250 per month higher than they were at the peak of the Celtic tiger era. That is an incredible legacy and record for the Minister of State and his political party to have. What that does is it radically reduces the spending power of the families for a generation. Money going towards paying rent is money that is taken away from other elements of those families' lives. We in Aontú have been calling for a rent cap for a long time as an emergency measure to make sure that rents do not increase further. The Government has pushed back over and over again on the idea of a rent cap. Any measures it has brought in allow for continuous rent increases to happen, even in RPZs, which is also wrong.

In my county, Meath County Council provide a discretionary fund for people who are homeless so that they can get emergency accommodation. What is happening is that landlords see this discretionary fund as a cheque and are looking to increase the charges for those rooms and houses so that they can gouge the council for the rental of those rooms for individuals who need emergency accommodation, which is wrong.

In times of crisis, protections need to be put in place so that the average citizen and those most exposed are protected. However, the Government is not treating this housing crisis as a time of crisis. It is not treating it as a national emergency. In all the aspects of Government housing provision regarding vacant homes, Airbnb and REITs, the Government is allowing business as usual to continue in the housing market. We have to get to a situation where it is understood that homes are considered to be shelter for families, yet the major element of Government policy is to allow homes to be speculative investments. That is what is wrong at the core of Government policy.

I thank the Deputies for putting forward the Bill. It is a very important issue but how many more times will we debate it? This huge problem is becoming more acute by the week literally. It is an awful situation. We then come into the Chamber and start demonising landlords and painting them as bad. The vast majority of landlords are decent people and there are some rogues.

The Government seems to be infatuated with the big conglomerates and entities that have multiple properties. We see that on a daily basis. I do not know but it is very difficult. It is so hard on people but, then again, there was a clamour in Dublin when 1,000 bedsits were closed down in one day with the stroke of a pen. Therefore, we cannot have our cake and eat it. We cannot just close down such places. I am sure many people would be very glad of those bedsits if they were available now, especially the homeless people. I am not saying that they should live in inferior accommodation or anything like that but the Government keeps pruning away and driving landlords out of the market with taxation. I am not a spokesperson and I do not have any second properties let or anything else. Looking at it from the outside, if the Government keeps taxing and burning landlords, they will exit the market.

I thank my staff in my office, which is overrun every day by people with notices to quit because of market reasons. Above all, the reason is it is not viable for landlords or they do not find it tenable anymore to remain in the market. Accidental landlords, or whatever you want to call them, are fed up with it. There are some very bad tenants. There are lots of good tenants but there are some very bad tenants who have done enormous damage to properties.

Every weekend my clinics, like those of all Deputies, are full of people looking for help with housing, including families who work hard but will never be able to afford to purchase a home of their own and families who do not qualify for any State help. These are the people falling between the cracks. The Government's Housing for All plan is nothing more than a rebranding of old Fine Gael policies and does nothing constructive to tackle pressures in the rental market in the short term or to address longer term supply needs. It does absolutely nothing to tackle the exorbitant taxation charged on small Irish landlords. Instead, the policy favours only the large institutional investor model.

A functioning housing policy must include the following. All tenants should have access to a good quality, safe and secure home. All tenants should be able to treat their houses as their homes and be empowered to challenge poor practice. All landlords should have information on how to comply with their responsibilities and be able to repossess their properties when necessary. Landlords and tenants should be supported by a system that enables effective resolution of issues. Local councils should have strong and effective enforcement tools to crack down on poor practice. Councils must get back to the model of building social housing. That is not occurring on the ground.

More than half of households renting the home receive some form of State support. A recent ESRI report showed that almost 300,000 households received support for their housing costs in 2020, up from 134,000 in 1994. That works out at 16% of Irish households overall and 54% of all renters. That support comes in the form of a combination of HAP, RAS and rent supplements used to assist one in three supported renters today, compared with one in five in the early 1990s.

First, I will declare that for many decades I have been involved in the rental market. That puts me in a good position to talk about this very important subject.

I welcome the debate, but some of its content will not help to solve the problem. What we have heard from an awful lot of the Deputies to the right is the demonisation of people who have properties they rent out. They are doing nothing wrong. The majority of people who own property are highly respectable, and this is a highly regulated sector. They pay mortgages on properties and they rent out those properties. Of course there are foreign investors who set themselves up not to pay tax. The one fact that is forgotten about, however, which I have not heard anybody to my right-hand side acknowledge, is that if the majority of people who rent out property bring in €1,000 in rent, €520 of that goes to the Government. I would like to hear that discussed today but it is not spoken about. Less than half the rental income is left to buy property, insure and maintain it and pay to fulfil all the necessary obligations.

While I would be delighted if the State could provide the accommodation that is required, not only this Government but successive Governments have failed to do so. There is a place for the private rental market. Of course it has to be regulated. Of course we want to see affordable rents that people can live with. It is wrong that people would have to rent forever. If people can get on the property ladder at some stage, that is the ideal scenario and that is what we all wish to see happen. Again, however, if a landlord outside the Chamber were to hear a lot of what has been said here today, all it would do is add to the 26,000 landlords who have already left the private rental market and sold their properties, which are no longer available to rent. That is making the problem worse and worse.

I thank People Before Profit for allowing us this discussion. I appreciate that everyone is trying to do their best but, sadly, I see in this proposal a lot of nonsense that just will not work. The Bill does not state whether it is referring to local authorities or otherwise. In my view, the local authorities assess income and treat people on lower incomes accordingly. Those people pay less rent. Those who tabled the Bill must be referring to private landlords.

To add to what the previous speaker said, many landlords pay 52% tax, and maybe something could be done about that to ensure that landlords will stay in the market and continue providing housing. I suppose the Government has a role in this. It could give more money to the local authorities to purchase more land and build more houses in places like Gneevgullia and Rathmore, for instance. The Government, however, is now putting on pressure to ensure that Airbnb is ruled out of order. There is a reason landlords opt for that market, and that is that they have control over their houses. I deal with many people looking for houses to rent. I also know many decent landlords who want to get out of the market but cannot do so because the Residential Tenancies Board is more in tenants' favour and will not allow landlords to get out. Many tenants are staying on in their houses and refusing to go even though they have been given proper notice. That is why landlords are getting out of the market. They do not have control of their houses. The Government needs to do something about that if it thinks private landlords are going to stay in the market.

I thank People Before Profit for introducing the Rent Reduction Bill, which I support. I think many will consider the proposal in the Bill to reduce rents in the private rental sector revolutionary, but a revolutionary approach, a practical and realistic proposal on behalf of renters, is what is required. The right to a secure, affordable place to live, a home, is an essential human right that has been denied to an increasingly large proportion of the population. We have a housing crisis, and none of the measures taken by this Government and previous Governments have come close to tackling the problem. I remember the then Minister with responsible for housing, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, stating in 2016 and 2017 that there would be no homeless families in hotels and bed and breakfasts by July 2017, and we still have a crisis.

A key factor in the crisis is the unaffordable rents demanded in the private rental sector. Rents have risen by 100% in the past ten years. There is certainly no evidence of a 100% rise in the cost to landlords of maintaining a property or of a 100% increase in workers' wages over that period. We now have a year-on-year inflation rate of 10%, but there was nothing like that in the past ten years. Building costs have risen, particularly for apartments, with the cost of buying a new apartment now ten times the average wage of €47,000 a year. The only people who can afford to buy or build are major international investment funds as long-term investments. When people cannot afford to buy, they are forced to rent in a market dominated increasingly by such big investment funds. I got an email just yesterday from a renter in Lansdowne Gate. IRES REIT has notified him that a further 2% rent increase will come into effect from 1 October 2022. That follows a 4% increase last year. He feels the residents are being manipulated by the vulture funds in the interests of their shareholders.

In 2021, two-bedroom apartments in Dublin were being advertised at €2,250 a month. Even for somebody earning €50,000 a year, which is above the average wage, that equates to 70% of their take-home pay. For the majority of working people who earn below the average wage, this is an intolerable situation. Even with an effective rent freeze, which we do not have, rents will remain unaffordable. For example, for someone earning €30,000, a rent set at 25% of take-home pay would be approximately €480 a month; for someone earning €40,000, it would be approximately €625 a month. Those are affordable rents. At a minimum, therefore, rents in the private sector need to come down by 50% to be affordable. There would be a hue and cry from the usual suspects that that would force the individual or so-called accidental landlords out of the system, but that is already happening, mainly to cash in on extremely high property prices. The Government should fund local authorities and approved housing bodies, AHBs, to buy those properties and let them back to tenants at affordable rents and with security of tenure.

The problem of supply will be met only by a State-led programme to build on already zoned public land 100,000 public housing units in a mix of traditional council housing and cost-rental housing. That should have been initiated years ago. If it has been, we would not be in the situation we are in now. We need a sea change in our approach to solving this crisis. It is an emergency. If that means a revolution in thinking and approach, that is what is required.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this important and necessary Bill. I absolutely support this legislation establishing a national rent authority and reducing rents to affordable levels by limiting them to a maximum of a quarter of households' monthly incomes.

As we all know, this is the last week the Dáil will sit before the recess. Although we have unnecessarily rushed through a lot of very important and heavy legislation, we have actually done very little to help to ease the cost of living for families. People are struggling to get by and keep up with continuous spiralling costs and it seems disingenuous of us to pass Bill after Bill without any of them addressing this. I welcome that People Before Profit has introduced this legislation to address properly the everyday struggle that people are facing. This legislation would have a huge impact on the many in this country who are part of Generation Rent. Due to the failed housing policies of successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Governments, facilitated by the Labour Party and Green Party, which keep them in power, people do not have the option to buy their own homes and as a result are being forced into the rental sector. Renters make up a considerable number of today's population and the rises in rents they have been subjected to are completely unacceptable.

In my constituency, Donegal, the average rent increased by almost 20% in 2021 alone, and this has only got worse in 2022. The latest report from daft.ie shows that rents in Donegal rose by 23% in the first three months of 2022 by comparison with the same period last year, with the county's rents rising at a rate beyond those of any other major city in the country. There is a serious scarcity of homes in the area. On 1 May, there were just 36 homes available to rent between Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, which is a drop of nearly 40%. What is more, we will now have many more pushed into the rental market in Donegal due to homes being affected by mica. I have discussed in depth the many issues with the defective concrete blocks Bill and I know this will also be discussed in the Seanad this afternoon, but I want to point out again that the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage is not only failing mica-affected homeowners through that legislation, but he is also failing them by not implementing the legislation before us, that is, by not ensuring that rents cannot increase any further. I strongly believe rents should be linked to people's incomes and to ability to pay. It is only fair. We cannot go on allowing for rent to take up most of a person's income. It is not acceptable and it certainly is not sustainable.

I would like to condemn the Taoiseach's remarks on this Bill. He said it would undermine the capacity of many working people to afford many things. This type of thinking is completely ridiculous and nonsensical. Is the argument that people want to pay more? I can assure the House that this certainly is not the case. If the argument is that people would like to afford to pay their own rent then that is of course the case and that is why this legislation is so important. It is to allow people to do just that.

The Government has prioritised helping developers and vulture funds over their own citizens for far too long, but it is them that it really represents. It does not represent the citizens of this country but the vulture funds, developers and foreign companies. It is they that it wants to represent. In that case, it is doing it very well. It is doing a very good job of it. We are starting from the wrong place because we are giving the Government credit for actually wanting to help citizens. That is not what it wants to do. We are starting from the wrong place all the time and expecting the Government to come to us. We should actually be starting where the Government is starting from and then we would see that, probably in its own mind, it is doing a good job. This process needs to end. Government Deputies need to remind themselves who they are here to represent: citizens, not vulture funds. They need to start listening to their constituents, who are crying out for help. It is time for their voices to be prioritised. The Government now has the opportunity to do that by passing this Rent Reduction Bill. We know it will not do it. Even though the Minister of State who is present, Deputy Noonan, is a Green Party Minister of State and is probably sympathetic to what is in the Bill, he will not accept and pass it. That is the reality because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have decided that the vulture funds are the ones they are looking after. Those are the ones the Government will pursue.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis na Teachtaí go léir. I thank all the Deputies. I do not have time to respond to all the issues raised.

Deputy Gino Kenny raised the issue of income thresholds. The review is now complete and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, and the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, are considering the findings with a view to making recommendations. Deputy Canney raised the issue of the RTB in respect of systems of payment. We will take that up again. I apologise again because I cannot address all the issues raised.

I thank Deputies for their contributions. I am grateful for the opportunity to close the debate for the Government on People Before Profit's Rent Reduction Bill 2022. The Government is opposing the Bill for the reasons outlined by the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, earlier.

The Government is keenly aware of the challenges that tenants face. We know that rents are unaffordable for many people and that rent increases can exacerbate financial difficulty. We know that many would prefer to own, and not rent, their home. We know that people want a secure home. We know they need a residential rental sector with an adequate supply to ensure rents are affordable. The Government has implemented and will continue to implement measures to promote equity, fairness and security of tenure in the private rental sector.

Increasing the supply of housing of all types is the key to relieving the pressure on the existing rental stock. The Government's plan Housing for All sets us on a path of delivering 300,000 new homes between now and the end of 2030, including 90,000 social homes, 36,000 affordable-purchase homes and 18,000 cost-rental homes, as referred to by Deputy Joan Collins. It is a plan with genuine ambition, guaranteed investment and fresh ideas to deliver housing for people to create a long-term sustainable housing system. Housing for All is backed by €20 billion in State investment in housing to the end of 2026. It gives certainty and stability to those who want to finance and build homes. To deliver housing at the substantial scale we need across the country, capital from all sources, including private investment, is required. Housing for All focuses on tackling supply and affordability issues in the rental market. Guaranteed State investment in housing of over €4 billion per year is aimed at increasing supply, and the increased supply of all properties, including purpose-built rental accommodation and cost-rental accommodation, will relieve the pressure on the existing rental market stock.

Through a range of measures, we are incentivising the supply of different tenures – social, affordable and private rental, including cost rental, and private ownership. The investment of €4 billion in Exchequer funding in 2022 will provide approximately 9,000 new-build social homes and help to fund the provision of 4,100 affordable homes to rent or buy.

Affordable-purchase schemes are coming on stream. These schemes, along with the first home shared equity scheme, will increase access to homes for first-time buyers. Housing for All is working. The Government is making progress. The numbers of new dwellings, completions, commencements, permissions, home purchases, first-time buyers and mortgage draw-downs are all increasing. This year, the Government's target is the delivery of 24,600 homes. In the year to the end of March 2022, 22,219 new homes were completed. We received 44,491 planning permission applications for residential units in the same period. Commencement notices for the construction of almost 30,233 new homes were received over the past 12 months. This is 18.5% higher than in the previous 12-month period, June 2020 to May 2021. Notices for 2,746 homes were received in May alone.

Some €250 million has been allocated for a local authority home loan, which is available for first-time buyers and other eligible applicants for the purchase of new or second-hand residential properties or for self-builds. Eligible applicants can borrow up to 90% of the market value of a property or purchase price.

The first home shared equity scheme was launched last week, on 7 July, and will support approximately 8,000 affordable home purchases by 2025, primarily for first-time buyers in the private market, with overall funding of €400 million. The scheme delivers on the programme for Government commitment to progress a State-backed affordable home purchase scheme to promote homeownership.

The Government has acknowledged that many families are currently facing housing affordability issues. To address this, it has committed under Housing for All to the delivery of 18,000 cost-rental homes by 2030, or an average of 2,000 homes per year, which will make a genuine difference for families experiencing affordability issues. The intention is initially to target cost rental in more urban areas where the affordability issues are most acute and where the most significant reductions in market rents can be achieved. Not only does cost rental provide security of tenure but it also targets rents at a discount of 25% below market rents for comparable units. As the rents are based on the cost incurred in the provision of a cost-rental home, State subventions can help to reduce starting-cost rents that are ultimately charged to the tenants, taking into account long-term maintenance needs. The Government has put in place a cost-rental equity loan scheme to assist approved housing bodies with cost-rental delivery and local authorities can avail of supports from the affordable housing fund to deliver cost-rental units.

Ireland's first 50 purpose-built cost-rental homes were completed in quarter 1 of 2022 at Enniskerry Road, Stepaside. These were delivered by Tuath and Respond approved housing bodies in collaboration with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and with €4.5 million in funding provided through the serviced sites fund, the precursor to the affordable housing fund. The cost-covering rent for the two-bedroom apartments is €1,200 per month, which represents a very significant discount on market rents in the area for the same type of unit. To date, approval in principle has been confirmed for approximately 900 cost-rental homes to be delivered by approved housing bodies under the cost-rental equity loan scheme in the period to 2023.

The Government has committed €70 million for cost-rental equity loan scheme funding this year. The scheme funds 30% of the cost of acquiring cost-rental homes. The remaining 70% is also committed by the State through loans from the Housing Finance Agency. This commitment is given on a multi-annual basis in line with the Housing for All targets.

The first 65 cost-rental homes under the scheme were tenanted in Ireland by Clúid in 2021, with 25 in Taylor Hill, Balbriggan, and a further 40 at Barnhall Meadows in Leixlip, County Kildare. Both developments delivered cost-covering rents at least 40% below comparable open-market prices. The second quarter of 2022 saw a further 119 cost-rental homes tenanted at Barnhall Meadows in Leixlip, Parklands in Citywest, The Paddocks in Newbridge and Kilcarbery Grange in Clondalkin. Funding from the cost-rental renewal scheme covers up to 30% of the capital costs of each development. The Housing Finance Agency provides support for the remaining 70% of capital costs. This will bring the number of cost-rental homes in Ireland to 234 less than 12 months since the passing of the Affordable Housing Act last July. As the model continues to be rolled out, it will provide long-term secure rental accommodation for thousands of renters. It will also add certainty to the rental market and provide more options for people. It is also expected that the development of the cost-rental sector will have an impact on the wider rental market, reducing rents over the longer term.

Any proposed measure that would impact on private property rights requires detailed consideration and scrutiny, having regard to the provisions of Article 43° of the Constitution and associated legal complexities. Rent pressure zones are a targeted instrument the Government has enhanced over the past 12 months, taking into consideration rising inflation, whereas the rent restriction proposed in the Private Members' Bill would apply to all areas regardless of the level of rent pressure.

The Government will oppose the Bill. I recognise the intent is to help tenants. The Government also seeks to help tenants. I assure the Deputies the programme for Government recognises the important role the private rented sector plays in housing many people and will continue to do so. The Government is addressing the challenges in the sector, including with standards. The Department continues to work hard with the Residential Tenancies Board to continue to strengthen its function and delivery of assistance to tenants and landlords. The board is highly responsive, particularly in the fast-moving context of Covid-19 in recent times, to the needs of tenants. The Government is continually providing up-to-date assistance. I record the Government's sincere gratitude to the RTB for its continuing efforts in this regard and for the help of MABS, Threshold and all other NGOs, approved housing bodies and local authorities that help to deliver in addressing the evolving housing crisis.

The Government is committed to supporting an adequate supply of residential tenanted accommodation to ensure equity and fairness for landlords and tenants alike. Improving standards, security and affordability for renters is a priority for me and the Government. We are making significant changes in recognition of the fact that tenants continue to face challenges in the rental and housing markets. Our approach to any necessary legal change will continue to be carefully balanced.

Landlords have never had it so good, to coin a phrase. Corporate landlords are having it really good. Corporate landlords were brought here after the crash by Fine Gael for one reason only, which was to make huge amounts of money. This is what they are doing. They own huge portfolios of apartments and houses throughout the State. In some cases they are getting paid by the State after getting a huge reduction in the cost of some of these houses. It is sickening to see it. There is a terrible legacy with regard to landlords in this country and there is the psyche of the Irish people. We fought against landlords when the Brits were here and we drove them out. That psyche and legacy are still here.

A total of €1 billion per year is given to private landlords. This is indefensible. This money is going to private landlords. Half of it could build hundreds if not thousands of houses but we continue this policy. The Minister of State is a member of the Green Party. This policy is ideologically driven. We have a housing crisis and 11,000 people in emergency accommodation because of ideology. It is because of the decision to leave housing to the market and forget about the ideology of public housing. This is what it comes down to. This is the reason we have a housing crisis and all of the by-products and misery that come with it. I do not know whether the Minister of State can defend that. He is swimming with sharks in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. These people are maniacs who have no social conscience when it comes to people in situations such as this. In the South Dublin County Council area I am from, the average three-bedroom house costs €2,400 to rent. Who the hell can afford that? Average working people who can afford that will be pinned to their collar and will have very little money for anything else.

What is wrong with rent control? It is a good idea that in a particular area if rents are very high, the State can say that rents must be certain level. It is a good idea. Other countries have done it. Why can we not do it? Otherwise we will let the free market run wild. The invisible hand cannot be touched. I do not understand why this is being allowed to happen.

Rent pressure zones were introduced five or six years ago. Even though rent pressure zones do not really work, they are an acceptance by the Government that we have to interfere somewhere on rent control. The rent pressure zones have failed. We need to go beyond rhetoric and have rent controls where people have a standard of living and not situations where people are homeless or cannot find a place. It is not acceptable. The Minister of State has to look at his position in government in defending these policies. This is what Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been all about. It is why we have a crisis. It is because of ideology. I do not know whether the Minister of State believes in that ideology.

We have an absolutely dire rental and housing crisis. For a Bill that we table to try to address these extortionate rents we get sent the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage, electoral reform, local government and planning. The Minister with responsibility for housing does not even bother to come in. I find that really sickening. Yet again, I do not get an answer, although I am not surprised, on why the Government broke its promise to tell us what is happening with the review of the social housing income eligibility thresholds. We were promised they would be announced before the summer recess. The promise has been broken. Many people are suffering as a result. Rents have reached €2,000 and €2,200 a month in Dublin. This year, rents have increased by 10% in Dublin and Cork, 13% in Galway, 15% in Limerick, 16% in Waterford and 24% in Leitrim. Record numbers of families and homeless people are on the street. The Government will go off on its summer holidays while people are suffering misery.

The Minister of State reeled off statistics. I will give him statistics. He mentioned Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. There are 4,000 households in need of permanent secure homes in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Over the next five years that are covered by the plan, another 2,825 will join the list. The Housing for All plan the Minister of State said will work will deliver 2,318 homes. There will be more people on the housing list in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown at the end of the plan than there are now. The situation now is that people on the housing list are waiting for 20 years. People cannot get a house from the council. The HAP rates are not high enough. In many cases, people cannot even get on housing list or become eligible for housing support. Amy, who has a family of three, was homeless once five years ago. She is overholding and will be evicted in the coming weeks. She will not go back into homeless accommodation.

Shauna is over-holding on her lease, has three kids, serious mental health issues and nowhere to go. She is faced with homeless accommodation. Joanna, who has three children, is faced with eviction at the end of July and there is nothing within the HAP limits in the area. Maria actually works for a housing charity and faces eviction in October. She cannot find anywhere to rent. Karen faces eviction on 3 September. She has a child with a severe ASD diagnosis. Emily has one child and has been put into emergency accommodation in Dublin city centre. "D", whose full name I will not mention, is working, was previously homeless, is being evicted from a HAP tenancy, cannot find anywhere else and will be back into emergency accommodation. Another mother with two children was removed from the housing list because her mother works part time. She has gone over the limit by €400 and is entitled to absolutely nothing. Jason works for the council and lives in his car. Helen is sleeping rough in Glasthule. I could go on and on. There is nothing for them and the Minister cannot even bother to come in to address it.

We are out of time.

We are not. I have one minute and 30 seconds.

The Government says it is not possible to anything about all of this and yet, Berlin did it. Berlin brought in rent-cap legislation in 2020 to do precisely what we are looking to do, which is not to allow rents go above levels that are affordable. It was brought in throughout Germany in 2020. In Paris, it was brought it in 2018. If there is a tense situation, we can introduce extraordinary rent controls, but the Government will not do it. We have declared an emergency, but the Government still will not do it. No matter how much human misery there is, the Government will not do it. It is not possible.

Then, as Deputy Paul Murphy said, we hear the real reason. The landlords would not like it. They would flood out of the market. If the landlords cannot deliver rents that are affordable, they should not be landlords. If they exit the market, as Deputy Murphy said, they cannot take the houses and apartments with them. The local authorities should step in and buy them. One of the reasons we have the highest levels of rents is that we have the lowest levels of social housing. We have 9% social housing in Ireland, against 25% in Austria and 19% in Denmark. We would get a lot of extra social housing if all the landlords exited and the State just went in and bought the houses and charged affordable rents. There is no problem. In fact, it would bring down the excessive rents and house prices in the market. The Government does not want to do it because it is only representing the landlords and vulture funds.

Question put.

In accordance with Standing Order 80(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time this evening.

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