At the weekend, the Taoiseach stated that housing is the number one crisis facing young people. This morning, a report published by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, has highlighted again the crushing cost of housing, including extortionate rents, which far exceed their pre-crash heights, as well as a collapse in homeownership amongst this generation of young adults.
It is not lost on these young people, their parents or their grandparents that the housing crisis was created by Fianna Fáil, which left the housing market in hock to developers and deepened by Fine Gael, which could not wait to let the vulture funds loose. The result of all of this is that those looking to put a secure and affordable roof over their heads do not stand a chance.
At a time when the Government should be moving heaven and earth to do everything possible to make housing affordable again, what is the Government doing? It is still enabling and encouraging wealthy investment funds to buy up family homes with cushy tax deals. The Government claims that this is a new phenomenon or an unintended consequence but that is not true. In 2019, six out of ten new homes in Dublin were taken off the market and the vast majority were sold to the investment funds. In the past four weeks, 400 houses have been snapped up by these funds.
Moreover, they are not stopping with Dublin; their plan is now to spread their wings across the State. These investment funds are now moving to Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway, with leading developers saying that they will be selling more than 40% of their new homes to these funds in the years ahead. It is a very daunting prospect for young people who scrimp and save and make enormous sacrifices to put themselves in the position, if they are lucky, to have a deposit to buy a home. Yet, these investment funds not only rob people of the chance to buy their own homes but also push up house prices, in some cases by as much as €80,000.
All of this happens against the backdrop of the publication of the utterly discredited Affordable Housing Bill 2021 by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and the provision of an affordable housing plan that can make houses even more expensive. Even by the Government's standards, that is some achievement. Is it any wonder then, that the mood of a generation is one of exasperation? The Government's sweetheart tax arrangements allow these investors to lock people out of homeownership and force them into the private rental market, where these same funds then charge extortionate levels of rent. Heads, they win; tails, they win; it is a win-win for the investment funds.
There are things the Government could do right now to make housing more affordable. It could double the State's capital investment in affordable and social housing. We in Sinn Féin have called for that action to be taken and the ESRI has echoed that call. The Government could cut the legs from the vulture funds by doing that. It could cut rents and put a month's rent back into the pocket of every renter through a tax refund.
It could legislate to prevent any further rent increases. Above all, what it could do is legislate to end the sweetheart tax deals and remove the financial incentive and advantage accruing to these investment funds. However, it has done none of those things. The Cabinet met today. People are waiting to hear from the Government. What are its plans to stop these vulture funds?