Social Democrats pledge to build 100,000 houses

Manifesto pledges improved work/life balance and more investment in public services

The Social Democrats pledged greater investment in public services, to build 100,000 social and affordable homes and to introduce more flexible working hours to create a better work/life balance for citizens in its election manifesto.

Speaking in Dublin on Friday as the party published the document, co-leader Róisín Shortall said the proposals were not an attempt at “reinventing the wheel” but rather a road map for a “uniquely Irish version of the Nordic model” where public services are well developed.

The party, which has two TDs and is running 20 candidates across the State, has promised to reshape the National Development Plan by prioritising cycling and public transport options if in government.

The Social Democrats want to move to a low- or no-fare model on public transport but co-leader Catherine Murphy said "You have to have the public transport to make it attractive in the first instance" and then offer motorists a financial advantage to get out of their cars.


The party said transport costs were a major issue for commuters, for whom the average wage was closer to €30,000 than the €47,000 figure Ms Murphy said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar uses.

Four-day week

More flexible working hours, including a four-day week, and the extension of parental leave to a year – six months maternal leave and six months shared by parents – are key elements of its work/life balance proposals. The manifesto also proposes an early years payment of about €50 a month for children.

Ms Shortall criticised Fianna Fáil’s proposals to double investment in the National Treatment Purchase Fund. She said this was incentivising privatisation and runs counter to the Sláintecare model of public healthcare provision which all parties signed up to during the last Dáil.

“Why don’t we improve those services in the existing public hospitals and we can get to a point where half the population don’t feel they have to pay expensive health insurance?”

Ms Murphy said politicians had to think beyond five-year government cycles and that this election was about the next generation, who have been locked out of housing options.

“You need an income in the region of €105,000 to afford an average house in Dublin and that is way beyond the reach of most people,” Ms Shortall said. The party pledged to build 100,000 houses over five years at a cost of €1.4 billion, which equates to €140,000 per house.


Ms Shortall said the cost of building a three-bedroom, energy efficient home is just under €200,000 but the €60,000 gap would be bridged through the provision of public lands, streamlining the planning process and economies of scale.

The big issue, she said, is the cost of sites and land hoarding.

“The control of housing land is in the hands of a small number of people and it shouldn’t be like that,” she said.

The housing mix should be “one-third affordable, one-third cost rental and a third social” and this could be done on public land.

Ms Shortall said a €200,000 house price would require a mortgage payment of €800 a month which was “just over half the €1,500 people are expected to pay now”.

Ms Murphy also proposed a “sunset clause” on banks being allowed to continue to offset past losses against current profits when individuals have a limit of four years in which to offset losses or claim tax refunds.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times