18th April 2002
Launch of Sinn Fein Housing Policy - Housing for All
``Social need not market forces must drive housing policy'' - Ó Caoláin
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Fein's Housing Policy in Dublin today Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
The proposals in this document are presented by Sinn Fein as our policy response to the ongoing housing crisis. They are based on our experience as elected representatives of many of those worst affected by that crisis. These are radical measures because radical measures are needed to meet the housing needs of our people.
The housing policy of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government has failed miserably. The government has relied almost totally on the market, and the profit motive of the developers and the construction industry, to provide a massive social need. That policy has failed. Since 1996 the number on local authority waiting lists has risen by over 40 per cent.
The National Economic and Social Forum in its Report on Social Housing concluded that `home ownership is now beyond the reach of most people on average incomes'.
Local authority housing continues to be neglected. Of the 49,812 dwellings completed in year 2000, for example, only 3,155 were local authority housing. The construction industry gives it low priority and concentrates on the lucrative upper tiers of the private housing market.
We need tax measures to promote social housing not to reward speculation. But rewarding speculators and landlords is a speciality of this government. The same landlords are being subsidised massively to the tune of over £100 million every year through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
Homelessness and the number of young people sleeping on our streets has increased ? surely a scandal at a time of supposed prosperity.
Sinn Fein's two-pronged approach is designed first to equip the local authorities to provide well-planned accommodation and to reduce the massive waiting lists. Secondly it is designed to make home ownership affordable for the mass of people who are excluded at present. I will briefly summarise our 12 point plan:
- Enshrine the Right to Housing in the Constitution.
- A National Housing Strategy and a National Housing Agency to co-ordinate all aspects of housing provision.
- State-led initiative in partnership with progressive financial institutions such as credit unions to allow lower income earners to purchase their own homes.
- Increased and sustained funding of local authorities to provide housing with a target of supplying suitable accommodation within two years for 70% of applicants on the waiting lists. Increase in Capital Gains Tax on speculative owners of multiple dwellings, introduced on a phased basis over two years.
- Statutory ceiling on price of land zoned for housing to stop speculation and reduce soaring house prices. Compulsory Purchase Orders on landowners sitting on land banks and derelict property.
- Direct community involvement in planning for housing. Legislation to ensure that social needs are incorporated in all housing schemes from the earliest stage.
- Single streamlined funding scheme for voluntary and community housing.
- Rent control in the private rented sector and enforcement of enhanced legislative protection for tenants.
- The establishment of a Housing Ombudsman's Office.
- Full implementation of an integrated strategy for homelessness with a target of 70% reduction within two years.
- Suitably tailored housing provision for those with special needs such as people with disabilities, women at risk, asylum seekers, Travellers, students.
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