Let’s face it: you’re going to have a very difficult time getting on the property ladder in Fingal on the average wage, even supposing you are lucky enough to find a property to buy. I talk to people every week who are:

- struggling to pay the mortgage on their property
- unable to save enough to buy a property due to high living costs (rent, car insurance, etc.)
- in danger of being evicted from their rental accommodation, despite being in paid employment.

Out-of-control property prices are making life misery and ruining the economy, as companies need to offer higher and higher wages just so that their employees can live in reasonable accommodation. For all intents and purposes, these high wage packets are passing straight through the employees’ hands and into the coffers of developers and landlords. The same is true regarding State help in meeting rental costs, which funnels tax money to private landlords without improving the living standards of the people it is meant to benefit.

The good news is that this is a very easy racket to stop.

In Fuller Democracy 2016, 89% of people who took part voted in favour of introducing rent caps pegged to inflation. Introducing a rent cap merely freezes things as they are, meaning house prices will not slump and homeowners will not be negatively affected (indeed, many of them will be positively affected, because this is the only way they will ever be able to afford a bigger home someday). However, it does mean that over time, the pressure in the rental market will lessen, as it will be hard to substantially increase rent more quickly than wages, and – in the absence of the ability to hike rents – the incentive to increase profits by building new units increases. Once it is (as it should be) not cheaper to buy than to rent, this will also take the pressure out of the home ownership market, as people will not be as desperate to get out of the rental market. House prices will likely gently creep up over time, depending on location, but it is unlikely that they will be subject to severe upward or downward fluctuations.

These rent caps would apply to the property, meaning that a landlord could not get around them by evicting their tenants and hiking the rent dramatically for the next occupants. An initial period of application of somewhere between 5-10 years seems advisable, following which it may make sense to peg controls to a certain yearly increase (say 2%) rather than inflation per se. However, some form of rent control with teeth will always remain necessary as long as the trend of urbanization continues.

Although it sounds like a small change, rent caps are probably one of the most effective things we can do to help people, as it will put disposable income back into people’s pockets, which will have a knock-on positive effect on the economy; it will improve living standards; and it will give younger people a chance to move out of their parents’ home and start an independent existence.