The Social Democrats have accused the government of hiding behind private property rights in the Constitution to avoid tackling the unprecedented housing crisis with the radical measures that are required.
The comments come ahead of the party’s ‘think-in’ in Dublin today hosted by co-leaders Catherine Murphy TD and Róisín Shortall TD.
Today’s event will explore issues faced by the ‘locked out generation’ – those experiencing increasing insecurity when it comes to finding homes to buy or rent. This generation is also affected by growing workplace insecurity, including precarious working conditions, bogus self-employment and the issue of two-tier pay scales in the public service.
The think-in will hear from experts and others how this precarity in relation to housing and employment impact on people’s lives in terms of delays in starting families and planning for the future.
Speaking ahead of today’s event, Deputy Murphy said:
“The lack of affordable housing to buy or rent is the number one issue facing the country, yet there is no end in sight. If we are to resolve the housing crisis before any more lives are lost, childhoods damaged or futures blighted, we need to take long-overdue radical measures on several fronts.
“That means the State building affordable houses on a massive scale, with the setting up of a dedicated Housing Delivery Agency to coordinate house builds in a sustainable way and at lower costs. The government also needs to make genuine efforts to free up land banks owned by the State as well as private interests including vulture funds.”
Deputy Murphy added:
“Article 43 of the Constitution seeks to balance private property rights with the common good. The problem is that, too often, the common good loses out. This holds us back on issues such as rent caps, rent certainty and addressing upward-only rent reviews.
“The government can no longer hide behind its conservative interpretation of this provision to avoid taking the radical steps needed to deal with our dysfunctional housing sector. If we are to put the common good at the heart of our efforts to bring the housing crisis to an end, Article 43 must be either challenged by way of legal action, or changed by putting it to the people to decide in a referendum.”
Ahead of the new Dáil term, the party also is also setting out its priorities for Budget 2018. These include the phasing out of the tax break on VAT for the hospitality sector over three years, to bring it back to its original 13.5 per cent.
Deputy Shortall said: “The special VAT rate of 9 per cent has served its purpose – tourism in Ireland is booming and last year a record 8.8 million overseas visitors came here. Increasing VAT on the hospitality sector would free up some €500-€600 million a year.
“Some of this money could be redistributed to support the tourism sector it other ways. It could also fund initiatives to support small and medium size enterprises and to finally ensure proper broadband coverage around the country, which is crucial for business growth and jobs.
“It would also increase the pot of money available for Budget 2018 and subsequent budgets. That would in turn allow for significant investment in healthcare, with the roll out of the Sláintecare ten-year reform plan, as well as measures to ensure that primary education is genuinely free, and to fund vital infrastructural projects.”
Party members attending today’s event will hear testimonies about the prevalence and impact of precarity in housing and the workplace, as well as expert analysis from two academics with expertise in these areas, Dr Alicja Bobek from the think tank TASC and Dr Lorcan Sirr from the Dublin Institute of Technology.
7 September 2017