The rent crisis in Ireland is having a devastating impact on the lives of an entire generation, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
The opposition leader told the Dublin parliament the government’s housing plan was “not working” and that rental prices meant the lives of tenants are being “put on hold”.
In the final three months of last year, new rents in Ireland were an average of 13.7% higher than in the same period in 2021.
The average market rent nationwide between October and December was €1,733 per month, up 2.7% compared with the third quarter of the year, and 126% above the low of €765 in late 2011.
Rents in Dublin are on average €2,324, up 13.1% year-on-year; in Cork €1,768, up 14.9%; in Galway €1,796, up 19.4%; in Limerick €1,673, up 18.9%; in Waterford €1,432, up 20.2%; and the rest of the country: €1,318, up 13.8%.
Accommodation pressures have also been blamed for a rise in far-right, anti-migrant and anti-refugee sentiment. There is a growing suspicion that the coalition parties in the Dublin parliament are content to see property prices and rents rise indefinitely, regardless of the cost to Irish society.
Speaking in response during leaders’ questions, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that rents were too high but claimed the government was working to help people to buy their own home.
In response, Mrs McDonald held up a series of photographs of rooms offered for rent in properties.
She said: “It is soul-destroying stuff. The rent crisis has had a devastating impact on the lives of an entire generation. People in their late 30s and 40s stuck in house shares because they can’t afford to rent a place of their own.
“Young people unable to move out of their parents’ homes because they haven’t a chance of renting.
“So many financially crippled by years of paying these rents, faced with the choice of moving back in with mum and dad or emigrating for a shot at a better life in another country.
“At the sharpest end of this crisis thousands of families face losing the roof over their heads when the eviction ban expires in April. This is all happening because government housing policy is failing.
“Week after week you come in here, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and gaslight Ireland’s renters by telling them that your housing plan is working, but how you can make that claim to people who handed over the lion’s share of their income in rent and who then see the rest of their income gobbled up by sky high energy bills, childcare fees, grocery bills, is beyond me.”
She asked the government to legislate urgently to ban rent increases for three years, deliver a refundable tax credit and and extend the ban on evictions until the end of the year.
Mr Varadkar responded that “housing for all is our plan”. He admitted that “rents in Ireland are very high and a lot of people are struggling to pay the rent” but added “we want people to become the owners of their own homes.”
Ms McDonald added: “This is now beyond crisis mode.
“So where does this end? At what point does reality dawn and do we see the necessary actions?”
“What you have done is not working.”