Unions call for local-authority led programme to generate 50,000 social housing units

Update 4.20pm:The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has today launched a new campaign calling on the government to tackle the housing and homeless crisis.

The ICTU want the government to initiate a major local-authority led programme to generate 50,000 social housing units over the next five years, introduce measures to penalise ‘land hoarding’, speed the planning process and create a new rental model for Ireland.

Congress President Sheila Nunan said that government must now take the lead on social housing provision, through the local authorities.

"The housing crisis now defines our society, for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways. Ceding control of the housing market entirely to the private sector has utterly failed. The state must now step in and assume responsibility for social housing provision in order to rebalance the broken housing market and vindicate the citizen’s basic right to a home and shelter.

"Congress is proposing that, as a first step, government should declare a Housing Emergency and move with the urgency that an emergency situation demands. It should commit to increasing the social housing stock by no less 10,000 per annum over the next five years."

General Secretary Patricia King said that Congress would seek to build a broad civil society coalition to press for urgent policy change on the issue.

"We will meet with local authorities, political groupings and housing campaign groups to build consensus around a platform that will deliver a solution to this crisis and work to ensure that government responds."

"There is enough serviced land in existence to build almost 400,000 homes. We believe local authorities should be empowered to make Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) of land for housing, at 25% above the agricultural land use value."

"The Vacant Site Levy should be increased from 3% to 6% and introduced in January 2018, while holdups in the planning process should also be tackled," she added.

Earlier: The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is calling on the Government to declare a housing emergency.

The organisation's launching a campaign on the issue later, that will call for a major social housing drive and tougher action on land hoarding.

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Housing Committee is set to hear concerns raised about the 'Family Hubs' that are being introduced to replace emergency hotel accommodation.

Maynooth University sociologist Dr Mary Murphy says the hubs could leave many homeless families stranded.

She said: "The real focus has to be on building houses and our fear is that families, onced they are housed in family hubs, they will be forgotten about.

"People will think that they are okay, and the focus will go off the urgent need to build homes for these families."

As of midnight last night, Drogheda in Louth and Greystones in Wicklow became rent pressure zones under a raft of changes announced yesterday by the Housing Minister.

The Social Democrats say extensions to rent pressure zones are only a partial solution to sky-rocketing rents.

Deputy Catherine Murphy says that may come as a relief to people renting in those areas, but it does not stop rents going up elsewhere.

Ms Murphy said: "It's a help, but I think that what it will inevitably do is put pressure on the areas just adjacent to the ones that are now included in the Rent Pressure Zones.

"And there is plenty of evidence that that's what happens."

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