Sinn Féin rails against ‘spectacular’ Coalition failure on housing

Housing for All policy characterised as ineffective, but Taoiseach stages robust defence

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien have "failed spectacularly" to get a grip on the housing crisis.

Ms McDonald said the Government’s policy is dismal failure and described the Housing for All plan as “not fit for purpose”.

Speaking during Leader’s Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday, Ms McDonald called for a tax rebate of €1,500 for renters. She also urged a ban on rent increases for three years.

The Dublin Central TD referenced the latest figures from the Residential Tenancies Board which outlined that rents increased by 9 per cent across the State in the final quarter of last year, as the number of new tenancies dropped significantly.

The rental market watchdog's quarterly price index of new tenancies put the national standardised average rent at €1,415, with average rents ranging from €1,972 a month in Dublin to €740 in Leitrim.

The Sinn Féin leader said the average rent in Dublin now stood at nearly €2,000, which is “off the wall”.

“This is a social catastrophe. The rent crisis is hammering a generation today and robbing them of their aspirations for tomorrow, for their future and this is no way to live,” she said. “It’s deeply unfair, in fact it is a horrible situation for anyone.”

Homeless crisis

She said it was not just “an urban crisis” and that in many towns and villages “there are no homes available for rent at all”.

Ms McDonald said as house prices go up, many people have given up on their dream of owning a home while the number of properties to rent countrywide continues to fall.

“This doesn’t just push up the cost of renting, it is also forcing many families into homelessness,” she added.

“Since, Taoiseach, you launched your housing plan the scourge of homelessess has escalated once more and we are now close to breaking the pre-Covid peak of 10,000 people homeless . . . The facts speak for themselves. You and Minister Darragh O’Brien have failed spectacularly to get a grip on this crisis and your housing plan is not fit for purpose because it’s underpinned by the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.”

In response, the Taoiseach said there had been a “rebound” in construction activities since the State had emerged from the pandemic with 35,000 homes commenced in the year to March 2022, the highest 12-month rolling average since 2008.

Mr Martin said the Housing for All plan is working and that 43,000 planning permissions had been granted in 2021, "a fourfold increase on 2011".

He also said that the ESRI had indicated that rents would be far higher if the rental pressure zones hadn’t been put in place.

“They are having an impact,” he said. “But in terms of new tenancies, the increases are very worrying and not satisfactory but they are related to the supply issue.”

Mr Martin said there is “an onus on everybody to facilitate the supply of housing” and that Sinn Féin had objected to build-to-rent housing projects despite the party having no difficulty with them in the North.