Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said her party would aim to provide one million homes over the next decade, saying “new thinking” is now needed on the housing crisis.
In an address to members at the Labour Party annual conference in Cork, Ms Bacik said that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are “perpetuating an unequal Ireland” and that she wants to achieve a “left-led green-red government”.
“Our ambition is for one million homes in 10 years, starting now. The State can, and we must, deliver 50,000 new builds and 50,000 refurbished homes a year for the next decade. In a strong economy with financial surpluses, we can do this. With new thinking and new ideas, we can do this. With a national housing emergency causing suffering for thousands, we have to do this. That’s our ambition for housing.”
Ms Bacik also said the party wants to introduce unlimited bus and rail journeys for €9 a month and a new tax on SUVs.
She also pledged a pay rise for workers and free GP care for all under-18s.
She said a new government “must be a constructive force for progressive change”.
“The current conservative Coalition is just not working. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are perpetuating an unequal Ireland. This Government is lurching from crisis to crisis. They are failing the people of Ireland.”
She said there has been “a catastrophic failure to deliver on housing.”
In her first address to Labour members since she became party leader, Ms Bacik said the “Government has turned to the private market to solve its own mess. And again and again, developers, speculators and land hoarders have shown that they can’t and won’t deliver the homes our communities need.”
Ms Bacik said that a young mother recently contacted her “in despair, facing the cliff edge of eviction next week, with no prospect of finding another home anywhere in her community. And she is just one of thousands.
“A home is a basic human right.”
She reiterated that the Labour Party wants to extend the eviction ban. The party will bring a motion of no confidence in the Government this coming week.
“A Government that is out of ideas, and out of time. A temporary extension of the ban would provide breathing space to increase housing supply. Not just to ramp up the tenant-in-situ scheme, but also to tackle vacancy and to undertake a massive rapid-build housing programme on public land.
“And to introduce a new ‘use it or lose it’ rule to stop speculators from sitting on inactive residential planning permissions in rent pressure zones. We have a crisis. We need urgent action.”
Challenged on how the target of one million homes would be delivered on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Ms Bacik said the figure “does sound large but that’s actually the figure that we need”.
She said tackling the housing crisis requires the level of ambition that was put into combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Outlining some of Labour’s proposals Ms Bacik said they want a “use it or lose it” rule so that developers cannot sit on live planning permissions and hoard land.
She said there needs to be a State construction company to ensure housing capacity is built through public investment.
Ms Bacik also said there needs to be intensive construction skills courses to rapidly increase the number of construction workers, as well as an “aggressive recruitment campaign”. She did not offer an estimate on how many construction workers will be needed.
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin was asked if he believed it is possible to deliver one million homes over a decade.
He said independent experts have offered views on what is needed and possible and they are “telling us we need and we can deliver between 40,000 and 60,000 units per year.”
Mr Ó Broin added: “I’d much prefer to listen to experts than whoever wrote Ivana Bacik’s speech.”