HOLLY Cairns has squarely blamed Fine Gael for the housing crisis in her first Dáil contribution as leader of the Social Democrats.
he told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Leaders’ Questions that his party had been in power for nearly all of her adult life.
“I’m a member of the first ever generation who will be worse off than our parents – this didn’t happen by accident,” she said.
“Political choices made by successive governments have resulted in the aspirations and dreams of an entire generation be either diminished or destroyed.”
Nowhere is the political betrayal of young people more evidence than in the housing disaster, she said.
Standing in front of former co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall, Ms Cairns, who represents Cork South West, said: “Skyrocketing rents and exorbitant house prices have resulted in the collapse of home ownership rates.
“We are now at the bottom third of EU countries when it comes to homeownership.” she added.
“All of this happened on Fine Gael’s watch.
“The share of 25-34 year olds who own their own home more than halved between 2004 and 2019, plummeting from 60pc to just 27pc,” she said.
“People can no longer afford to buy a home because they are spending all of their money on rent.
“Between 2012 and early last year, rents increased by staggering 9pc — while prices in the economy increased by just 11pc.
The housing disaster was now threatening the economy, she said, referring to a new Chambers Ireland warning that accommodation for employees was the biggest threat facing small and medium businesses.
“An economy cannot function where workers cannot afford to buy or rent a home,” she said.
“Fine Gael has been in government for almost my entire adult life,” she told Mr Varadkar.
“Your party first promised to address what was a housing crisis in 2014. Nine years later, promises have been broken, targets have not been met, and lives are being ruined as a result.”
The Taoiseach congratulated Ms Cairns on her election as leader in the Social Democrats and wished her “a fair wind”.
He said he was deeply concerned about the fall in homeownership in Ireland, which had been at nearly 70pc. He wanted to bring back such statistics.
“I want that to be the reality for people who are now in their 20s and 30s. And that’s why I’m determined that this is the year in which we should turn the corner on the housing crisis.”
As to this being the first generation of young people that are worse off than their parents, Mr Varadkar said: “I haven’t thrown in the towel on that. That will only be the case if we don’t turn the tide on the housing crisis.
“When it comes to other things that young people experience, we’re doing much better.
“There are more employment opportunities than ever before for young people. Youth unemployment is at an all-time low. incomes have never been higher. More young people experience further and higher education than ever was the case in the past.”
But he acknowledged: “The area where we are letting young people down is on housing.
“I do acknowledge that, and that’s why we’re doing so much work to turn it around.”