Like I always do in the interest of doing my business properly in this Dáil, I want to declare what could be perceived as a personal interest in this matter. However, as I always say, I believe this prepares me better for being balanced and seeing every side of this issue, which is so important. It has rightly been stated that the pressure on people, particularly young families, because of the ever-increasing cost of rent is frightening. Any type of relief or assistance that can be given to those families should be given, and be seen to be given, to make a genuine difference for them. It is no surprise anymore to hear of rent of €1,500, €1,700, €2,000 or more per month. It is a frightening amount of money to have to pay just to live in a rented house. However, the one thing we cannot get away from and which we must always remember, in the interest of looking at both sides of the coin, is that the Government in power is taking in over 50% of the rent received by the owner of the property in tax. The Minister should not forget that.
Deputy Doherty rightly referred to €2,500. The Minister should not forget that the Government is taking €1,250 of that every month. The person collecting the rent, paying the mortgage and property tax for the property, paying for the maintenance and updating of the property, keeping to all the regulations and doing his or her business right is giving half of the rent to the Government in tax. The Minister should not forget it. I always want to drive that home because, even if we are talking about a more normal rent, say a rent of €800 or €900 per month, the Government is taking half of that also. The Minister should not forget that. It is a very important point.
We have to work imaginatively. The main way to bring down the ever-increasing cost of rent is by increasing the housing supply in the market. I am aware that is not what the amendment is about but, at the end of the day, it is the answer to the problem we have. It is a matter of local authorities providing more local houses and of the builders we always had — the traditional builders, not big companies — building more houses. I am talking about the kind of man we all had in every village and town: a medium- or small-time builder who might build five or ten houses every year and sell them on the open market for what I would call reasonable money. He or she made a profit, kept local people in business and had subcontractors working for him or her. It was a great system but, sadly, such people are gone. The reason they are gone is that it is no longer profitable, viable or sensible for a person to buy a piece of ground, get it zoned if it is not already zoned and build five or ten houses on it.
If you take the cost of the material, the cost of the labour, the VAT, the other tax and every other charge out of that, it does not make any sense for that builder to produce those ten houses and then to try to sell them at an affordable rate. I am not talking about profiteering. I am talking about a good, respectable builder selling them off to young or middle-aged couples who want to start out on their own in the property market and buy an affordable house.
When I was growing up, it was an awful sum of money, but the average house cost £30,000. Whether you worked in the local co-op or whether you were a garda or a teacher, the average house the length and breadth of the country, when I was a teenager, cost £30,000. In our heads we thought it was an unimaginable amount of money. If you think about it pro rata, however, and given what the garda's, teacher's or council or local authority worker's pay was at that time, it made sense to buy a house for £30,000. However, when you see the prices being quoted today and what property is fetching, it does not make sense for a person to buy. Killingly enough, though, it does not make sense for a person to build to sell either. That is the ironic thing. Deputy Doherty knows - I am sorry to mention him all the time - that an awful lot of what Sinn Féin says I understand. I just want to get us all in the same frame of mind. It makes no sense in Ireland today to build a house to sell it. Therefore, the people who want to buy a house cannot do so because the houses are not there. When sufficient supply is not there, the supply that is there is extraordinarily expensive. It is a real conundrum and it is like a pressure cooker at the moment. It is getting worse and worse.
I am listening 100% to nothing but well-intentioned people standing up here and making proposals because they are just trying to help with the situation, but I do not see it helping. A number of different things have gone wrong in Ireland. In the past 24 months we have had a new problem, of which I know the Minister and every other Deputy is aware, and that is the cost of material. I could frighten the House with statistics and percentages for the prices of different pieces of timber and steel because I know acutely how much they have gone up by. It is no exaggeration to say that €5,000 worth of timber last year costs €11,200 today. It costs €6,200 more 12 months later to buy the exact same box of timber. That is crazy. From doors to steel girders, the price of everything has gone up enormously. What is that doing? It is ensuring, again, that that small builder I am talking about who used to go and build his few houses does not see the sense in doing so because when he goes to the market to advertise those houses, he will have to charge exorbitant amounts that the young couple cannot afford.
We really have a problem in front of us. I am not fighting with the Minister about it. I am only standing here saying we must come together, all of us, to try to do something that will help. If there are imaginative ways of giving tax relief to renters to try to bring down the amount of money they are parting with every month, of course we should do that.