The art of negotiation: A review of the Irish Political Parties plans to tackle the current housing crisis.

Which housing pledges will get them across the line? 

With efforts to form a viable government ongoing, it is worth re-examining the pledges contained within the main political parties’ election manifestos regarding the residential market. While the issue of Irish Water appears to have come to the fore in recent government formation negotiations, it is important to remember that the housing crisis remains the most pressing issue facing the country today.

Unsurprisingly, a review of the respective manifestos shows that the stated aim of all political parties is to substantially boost the delivery of new homes to the market. Both Fine Gael and Labour want to increase the level of output to 25,000 units per annum by 2021, while Fianna Fail plan to build a similar number, roughly 21,000 units per annum by 2021. While Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour’s plans mainly involve the private market, Sinn Fein, want the State to take a more active role in construction and plan to build 100,000 units by 2030, elevating the stock of houses owned by the State to 200,000. In terms of social housing, both Fine Gael and Labour have restated their commitment to building 110,000 units as outlined in the Social Housing Strategy 2020 (comprised of 35,000 new homes to meet social housing needs by 2020, and in addition, up to 75,000 units of long term, quality accommodation through local authority housing support schemes for tenants), while Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein plan to construct 45,000 and 36,500 units respectively in the lifetime of the 32nd Dail.

In terms of bringing these plans to fruition and supporting construction, there are some commonalities between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael both wish to introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ clause to tackle perceived land hoarding, while Labour wants to introduce a Land Development Tax, which is quite similar to the Vacant Site Levy outlined in Fine Gael’s manifesto. Labour also want to create a Land Development Agency with the aim of ensuring there is an adequate supply of land to match construction. The parties seem to differ on their attitudes to Part V. Fianna Fail plan to restore Part V to 20%, despite Fine Gael and Labour having reduced it to 10% last year, while Sinn Fein propose on amending it further to designate 10% as social and at least 10% as  affordable housing.

With reference to buyer support initiatives, both Fianna Fail and Labour want to help first-time buyers save for a deposit. While their schemes may have different names, both Fianna Fail’s ‘First-Time Buyer’s Saving’ scheme and Labour’s ‘Save To Buy’ scheme would see the state top-up the saving accounts of first-time buyers.

In conclusion, there are a range of measures that have been proposed by the main political parties, some with more merit than others.  What is important is the current political impasse is overcome as soon as possible so decisive action can be taken by the new government to address the difficult, but not insurmountable, challenges facing the housing market today.

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