Ictu wants Government to declare national housing emergency

Unions want output of social housing at annual rate of 10,000 by late 2018 or early 2019

“Social housing must be provided in the context of new spatial and environmental plans at local authority and regional level that address transport, water, waste and social services’ needs”

“Social housing must be provided in the context of new spatial and environmental plans at local authority and regional level that address transport, water, waste and social services’ needs”

 

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) will on Wednesday call on the Government to declare a national emergency on housing.

In a new policy paper, Ictu strongly criticises the Government for failing to tackle the housing crisis, and calls for initiatives to be introduced in Budget 2018.

A sharp increase in the output of social housing to a rate of at least 10,000 per annum by late 2018 or early 2019, the introduction of a 6 per cent vacant site levy and the use of compulsory purchase orders are some of the proposals made by the Ictu.

In its housing policy document it says the key priority for the State is to avoid reliance on the private sector, and increase the build of social housing dramatically. The local authorities, it says, should drive the building with the financial assistance of the State.

The focus initially should be on the five areas of greatest social housing need – Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

The paper, seen by The Irish Times, reads: “It should be clearly understood that this target should only be pursued as part of an integrated strategy of well-planned, mixed-income housing, with an equal third going to social, affordable rental and affordable purchase housing provided by local authorities.

Weak public services

“We do not want a return to the large-scale, poorly planned estates located on the outskirts of major urban areas with few facilities and weak public services.

“Social housing must be provided in the context of new spatial and environmental plans at local authority and regional level that address transport, water, waste and social services’ needs.”

The unions stress the failure to invest in housing will cost the State in the long-term, and will make Ireland unattractive to external investment.

The Ictu says compulsory purchase orders should be used to acquire vacant land and homes, while a vacant site levy should be brought forward for introduction in 2018 at a rate of 6 per cent. It insists all monies generated from such a system should be ring-fenced for homelessness services.

The paper says the issue has affected every person in the country, and requires a multi-dimensional approach involving a significantly enhanced role for local authorities

Human suffering

“Given the extent of human suffering caused by this public policy failure, as well as the economic damage it is doing, the housing situation should be treated as an emergency. This is not a matter of choice, but an absolute necessity.”

Greater flexibility from Europe is also required to allow for off-balance sheet investments, it adds.

The Ictu has also called for the abolishment of the first-time buyer scheme, claiming it is a wasteful use of public money that is increasing house prices to the benefit of the seller.

The money, it says, should be allocated to local authorities, and used to expand housing supply and thereby reduce price increases for first-time buyers.

Meanwhile, the Dáil will on Wednesday discuss a proposal by People Before Profit/Solidarity to have a referendum to insert the right to housing into the Constitution and to delimit private property rights.