How would opposition parties tackle the housing crisis?

Updated / Monday, 17 May 2021 09:39

Plans to prevent investment funds from buying entire housing estates will go to Cabinet tomorrow

By Tommy Meskill

Proposals to clamp down on investment funds block-buying new housing developments will go to Cabinet tomorrow.

It follows over two weeks of political pressure after news broke that an entire estate in Maynooth had been bought up by such a fund.

But whatever proposals are brought forward tomorrow, this is just one aspect of quite a complicated crisis.

There has been plenty of criticism of the Government's plan to tackle the issue of housing, but how would Opposition parties tackle the crisis if they were in charge?

Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin

"We would double direct capital investment in the delivery of social and affordable homes by local authorities, approved housing bodies and community housing trusts" says Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin's Housing spokesperson.

He believes this measure would pave the way for 20,000 homes every year, comprising both social and affordable.

Under the Government's plan, 9,500 new social homes will be completed this year.

Overall, roughly 15,000 to 20,000 new homes will be delivered in 2021, fewer than hoped for due to Covid-19.

Ireland needs about 33,000 new homes a year.

Rent Pressure Zones are in place, intended to prevent rents in certain areas increasing by more than 4% per year.

However, Sinn Féin wants a complete ban on increases.

"We would ban rent increases for three years, we would give renters real security of tenure while, of course, building a large volume of genuine affordable rental accommodation," he said.

When asked if private builders would be used to achieve these targets, Mr Ó Broin said that they would but that the local authority would take on a developer role. These authorities would be tasked with developing public housing.

"And when I say public housing, I'm not just talking about social housing," he added.

Government have committed to spending €3.1bn on housing this year.

How much would Sinn Féin spend if they were in power?

"If I was the Minister for Housing today, we would be spending everything the Government is spending and an additional €1.4bn but the big difference is not just the amount, it's what you do with the money, and what we want is more money directly spent on the building of homes," Mr Ó Broin said.

Of the €3.1bn to be spent by Government on housing, approximately €2bn is on capital expenditure and around €1bn is on current expenditure, which includes the likes of the housing assistance payment to help people afford their rents.

Rebecca Moynihan, Labour

The Labour Party said Ireland needs secure tenancies.

"I think if we still have so many people in the private rental sector, as they are getting older and moving into pensions age, I think it's a ticking time bomb," Labour's spokesperson on Housing, Senator Rebecca Moynihan said.

She believes that measures such as long leases, affordable rental and rental accommodation that allows you to keep pets, could help make renting more sustainable, for those that do not buy a home.

How do you achieve affordable rental? Senator Moynihan explained that "people who are on higher incomes cross subsidising, [rent] being tied to about thirty percent of people's incomes and also the loan term is over a longer time, and you link that in".

Ms Moynihan believes that the State should be involved in providing that, while linking in housing cooperatives and approved housing bodies.

Rental market aside, Labour also believes that the State should play a greater role in the direct building of houses and its manifesto commits to 80,000 homes over the next four years.


Cian O'Callaghan, Social Democrats

All opposition parties have their own ideas on how to tackle investment funds.

Cian O'Callaghan, the Social Democrats' Housing spokesperson, believes the market is too reliant on them.

"They're getting this dominant role where they're able to outbid everyone else, that needs to end," he said.

Mr O'Callaghan is also worried about the relationship between local authorities and such funds.

"We have an issue where they're being effectively guaranteed by the State who are signing long-term leases with them. There's some instances where the State is actually funding the construction of homes which are then being sold onto an investment fund, which are then being rented out for the next fifty years," he added.

If he was Housing Minister, he would want to use State resources to fund "in a much more focused way, affordable homes and social homes".

Social Democrats said it would build at least 10,000 social homes and 10,000 affordable homes.

Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit

Richard Boyd Barrett of People-Before-Profit is also eager to see the State play a much greater role in the provision of housing.

"The State has to intervene very heavily and directly provide social and affordable housing at a price that ordinary workers can afford, I don't believe the market is capable of doing that at the moment," he commented.

Would private builders have a place under People Before Profit's plan?

"Undoubtedly," he says.

He explained, however, that the party believes Ireland needs a "State construction company, we need to marshal the building capacity that currently exists in order to build directly".

People Before Profit has also called for rent controls and the direct provision of 20,000 social homes and 10,000 affordable homes on public land for the next five years.

Government's plan

This month, the Government published the Affordable Housing Bill.

It includes several measures to tackle the crisis on a number of fronts.

Among the measures, a requirement for 10% social homes and 10% affordable homes in new developments, cost rental scheme and a new shared equity scheme, which would allow Government to take a stake in a home, to help first-time buyers.

The Bill also includes plans to deliver 6,000 affordable homes on State lands within four years.

Opposition TDs have criticised many aspects of the legislation.

Plans to prevent investment funds from buying entire housing estates will go to Cabinet tomorrow.