Sinn Féin has proposed a “sea change” in how the State approves public housing projects, as part of an alternative budget that it said could deliver 20,000 social or affordable homes next year.
The party’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said if in government his party would deliver 2,900 more social homes and 4,500 more affordable homes than the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition which has a combined target of 12,600 homes in 2023.
Mr Ó Broin said the housing plan would cost €1.4 billion in capital expenditure and one fifth of the 20,000 social or affordable homes would be refurbished vacant or derelict homes.
He said the party would also reform the current Department of Housing system for approving public housing projects, which he said was delaying developments by up to two years in some cases.
Mr Ó Broin said Sinn Féin would discourage developers from building aparthotels or luxury build-to-rent housing, by scraping tax reliefs. He said this would free up construction workers to instead work on building social and affordable homes.
Sinn Féin reiterated its call for “emergency legislation” to introduce a ban on rent increases for three years. It also committed to a refundable tax credit “to put a month’s rent back into renters’ pockets”, which the alternative budget said would cost €302 million.
Sinn Féin called for a significant expansion of the current tenant in-situ scheme, where local authorities buy private rental properties when tenants receiving social housing support payments were served eviction notices and facing homelessness.
Mr Ó Broin said the majority of landlords currently leaving the market were “accidental landlords”, or those who had bought property to later sell to bolster their pension. In both cases he said these cohorts were leaving the market and selling the properties as house prices were high.
The Sinn Féin TD said landlords already received “significant tax breaks”, and any further tax cuts could not be justified.
Sinn Féin would also seek to reform the procurement process, where contractors bid for public projects. Under the proposed reforms local authorities would not need to run a procurement competition for every individual housing development, instead contractors would bid to enter a framework agreement with State bodies for a period of time.
Under its alternative budget, Sinn Féin said it would double the number of homes bought to move people out of long-term homelessness, from 240 to 500 a year.
The party also called for a ramping up of regeneration efforts of inner city council flats in Dublin and Cork.
As part of a wider reform of An Bord Pleanála, which has been at the centre of a recent controversy, Mr Ó Broin said his party would put €1.3 million towards hiring extra staff.
The party called for the establishment of a dedicated planning and environmental court, which would deal with judicial reviews taken against proposed housing developments.
Mr Ó Broin said, if leading government, Sinn Féin would push for a “sea change” in housing policy, which he did not think would be “resisted” by civil servants.
“We either trust our local authorities to deliver housing or we don’t. Nobody can say that the current system works,” he said. “If Government policy from the top right down to the line ministry wants this change then I think implementing that isn’t going to be so difficult,” he said.