There used to be a certain level of decency in Ireland. The sight of a homeless person sleeping on the street was regarded as shocking. But today the scourge of homeless ness is seen everywhere. One in three of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s TDs are landlords who have a vested interest in high rents. Their policies have been a disaster.
Many young people can no longer afford to buy a home. They are caught in a vicious trap of paying exorbitant rents with no prospect of relief. Those in need of social housing will have to wait for more than a decade to get accommodation. Homelessness and accommodation in the 21st-century version of ‘poor law homes’, known as hubs, grow by the day. People Before Profit aim to change all of this.
- We would hold a referendum to insert a ‘right to housing’ clause into the Irish constitution. Human rights do not just include political freedoms – the state should have a legal obligation to provide housing.
- Immediately declare a housing emergency. This will enable the state to borrow funds to begin a major house-building programme and to withdraw from paying out €500 million a year to private landlords.
- Create a national construction company. There is no reason why the state cannot build houses. There is state-owned land available and tens of thousands of construction workers either here or abroad who would be willing to work for decent wages.
- Build 100,000 council houses over five years. This will cost €3 billion in the first year and a total of €14 billion over five years, but it will become self-financing by year six and into the future. This programme will also provide jobs in the construction sector and add to revenue receipts.
- Control the price of building land to create affordable housing. You can build a three-bedroomed house for less than €200,000. If speculation in land were stopped, we could have cheaper housing.
- Force NAMA to hand over land for public housing. This is public land – it should be used to build council houses cheaply.
- Stop the sell-off of public land to private developers. Fine Gael wants to sell off as much public land as cheaply as possible to their developer friends. This must be stopped. Public land should be used for council and affordable housing and community amenities.
- Implement rent controls and provide security of tenure. Rents are too high and this is leading to social cleansing. The poor are being forced out of their communities. Freeze the rents immediately. Create a system whereby tenants can seek a cut in rents. Introduce efficient rent controls that link future rent increases to the Consumer Price Index. Give tenants security of tenure.
- Create an independent review board for council tenants. At present, tenants cannot appeal decisions of their landlord – the local authorities.
- Establish an Independent National Housing Agency to oversee the delivery of safe and culturally appropriate Traveller Accommodation.
- Ban economic evictions. Vulture funds are trying to increase the rate of evictions because property prices have risen. Landlords use loopholes such as renovations to evict tenants. If passed in the Dáil, the Solidarity-People Before Profit Anti-Eviction Bill would have closed these loopholes and banned evictions in cases of demonstrable economic distress. We will continue to fight to stem the tide of evictions.
- Impose a vacant dwelling levy. There are over 200,000 vacant properties in Ireland – even though thousands have no home. We need a ‘use it or lose it’ policy whereby private property owners will pay a special levy if their property is left empty for more than six months. We would impose a vacant land levy of 25 percent to be charged on land that is being held back for speculative reasons.
- Use Compulsory Purchase Orders. In some cases a levy will not be enough. If the public good demands it, the state should be able to use a CPO to attain appropriate accommodation.
- Reverse the scandal of self-certification of building works. Conduct immediate audits for fire and safety. Create a redress fund for the 90,000 houses built during the Celtic Tiger era that have serious defects. Levy the construction industry for this fund.