Sinn Féin’s position is that government policy needs to change so that the state builds houses. It happened in the past and can happen again. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael insist on depending on private developers to solve the housing crisis. Policies like this caused the economic crash in the first place, and are not a solution. Only a radical change in policy, with the state taking responsibility to supply social and affordable homes, will solve the problem.
Currently, citizens in Ireland do not have a right to housing. Sinn Féin has continuously advocated for a rights-based approach. If you had a right to housing, amongst other things, then the government would have a legal responsibility to deliver on that right. Currently, housing is a commodity and not a right for our people.
In our 2019 alternative budget, Sinn Féin doubled the government's spending commitment on social and affordable homes, delivering twice as many units. In the short term, this would help, but a change of policy is ultimately needed.
Sinn Féin would push for the delivery of over 10,000 social homes per year. This government has delivered no affordable houses. Sinn Féin would initially push for the delivery of over 3,000 affordable rental units per year and greatly expand this sector of the housing share.
We advocate council-led mixed-income public-housing estates with social, cost-rental and affordable-purchase homes. And we propose reducing the time for the approval, tendering and procurement process for public housing from 18-24 months to 6-9 months.
Across Europe, renting is much more prevalent than in Ireland. Some of this is due to historical reasons, but it also has to do with the legal structure. Renting can be good for some, but only if properly regulated. In Europe, the legal infrastructure is in place, with regulation on security of tenure and rent levels. These models are available, and whereas no two systems are the same this problem can be solved. Fixed long-term leases, backed by strong regulation on both sides, is necessary. This government has consistently refused to examine these alternatives, mainly because ideologically they give more importance to property than to people.
Sinn Féin were the first party to advocate for an immediate rent freeze for a period of three years, preventing any further rise in rents. This would be accompanied by a renters’ tax relief equivalent to one month's rent.
This cannot be separated from the previous two questions. An adequate supply of social and affordable homes, alongside a properly structured rental market, will reduce homelessness. It won’t solve it all, as there are many reasons people end up in homelessness, but it would go a long way.
On top of our above proposals to tackle the severe undersupply in the housing market, and to reduce the financial burden on hard-pressed renters, Sinn Féin have advocated for an increase in investment in homeless emergency accommodation and support funding in our alternative budget. We also proposed to allocate more funding for accommodation of survivors of domestic violence.
For residential properties, Sinn Féin would introduce measures to stop the widespread practice of land hoarding. This happens when investors and developers hold onto land, thus blockading the housing market to drive up prices. Some of the measures we have proposed are the introduction of a vacant property tax, and increasing the Vacant Site Levy. Again, the reason so many people are at the mercy of investors and developers can is that government policy depends on them to build houses. A state building programme would reduce that power.
For commercial property, Sinn Féin have developed a policy about using the Irish Strategic Investment Fund to invest in run-down town and city centres, instead of underperforming investment funds abroad. In partnership with local councils across the island, the Irish Strategic Investment Fund would purchase disused green sites and vacant commercial properties to rent them out on a commercial basis, creating more revenue for councils and regenerating Irish towns.
Sinn Féin have advocated for increased capital investment in low-carbon public transport to increase the capacity of our transport network. A properly functioning public transport system is a service that brings benefits to all sectors of society. Greater state involvement in a joined up transport system, e.g. linked bus and rail would ensure proper infrastructure. This government’s policy is to promote privatisation of profitable sectors and transport routes, which will lead to inefficiencies, low pay and bad working conditions, for the enrichment of the few. Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the privatisation of bus routes and demand the very best of transport services for the public and owned by the public.
The state supports the provision of public transport through Public Service Obligation funding to Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Iarnrod Éireann and Sinn Féin have advocated for this to be increased. In our alternative budget for 2019, the increase we proposed could have reduced fares by 10–12 percent.
Sinn Féin are deeply concerned by the government’s ham-fisted efforts to redesign the Dublin bus network. Under the BusConnects route-culling proposals thousands of Dubliners living in the suburbs stand to lose their direct buses to the city centre, to their schools, colleges and hospitals. Passengers in some areas will have to get several connecting buses to travel from the suburbs into the city centre.
There are also potential problems with service frequency reductions and moving bus stops from residential areas.These changes have the potential to hit vulnerable transport users hardest, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.
We see the potential for local authorities to assume a "lead planning" role whereby they could co-ordinate local development with other state agencies to ensure co-ordinated development of areas including public transport routes.
Council SPCs [strategic policy committees] on transportation should work proactively to ensure changes to public transport provision only ever enhance delivery and serve the needs of the people.
Sinn Féin’s capital-investment plans propose to allocate additional resources for cycling infrastructure, especially in Dublin, but also creating additional routes and bike services in smaller towns without such infrastructure.
We should also see cycling as part of the overall transport system and again, integrate cycling infrastructure with bicycle friendly buses, trains and trams.
We propose that every council establish an ambitious target of kilometres of cycle-lanes for delivery.
Climate change is the most pressing problem of our age. The effects of climate change are visible to us all. Sinn Féin advocates that climate change issues should be addressed in all areas of government. We oppose the regressive carbon tax increases proposed by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party, and believe it is the government passing the buck onto hard-pressed families for the government's abject climate failures.
Sinn Féin advocates increasing grants for electric vehicles, more and cheaper public transport, providing state-funded retrofits to thousands of homes to improve efficiency and tackle fuel poverty, and investing heavily in our renewable energy infrastructure and have laid out spending plans to achieve this. We have also recommended increased funding towards Science Foundation Ireland, and believe the state should do more itself, in generating cutting-edge research and development to get the most out of our renewable energy potential and place Ireland at the forefront of the fight against climate change.
In the Dáil, Sinn Féin are introducing a Local Authority Climate Obligation Bill to ensure each local authority takes stock of all their land that can be used for the generation of renewable energy, to create electric vehicle charging points, to create supply lines of organic waste material for the production of biogas and to develop public transport and cycle lanes. It would also ensure that Local Authorities seek to produce their own energy, build homes of the highest energy standards, and facilitate the collection of organic waste and compost.
Sinn Féin believes the privatisation of waste collection was a disaster that has led to an inefficient waste collection mode, with multiple companies and waste trucks clogging up small residential streets. It has also led to an increase in dumping across the State. Waste collection should be brought back into public ownership and treated as a service to society and not simply to the individual.
In the short term, Sinn Féin supports the introduction of a franchising model for local waste services, in order to secure one waste collection provider per council area. It would also empower councils to determine prices and waiver systems to ensure affordability. Our franchising model would reduce costs, and make waste collection more accountable and more efficient.
Councils also need to provide residents with the basic facilities to ensure areas are kept clean and tidy. We need more public bins and dog litter bins, as well as more recycling facilities that allow people reduce their waste outputs.
Sinn Féin have proposed additional funding for greenways. And in various councils, we also supported the establishment of conservation projects to protect rivers, streams and forests. We also promote the planting of broad leaf trees in towns and cities across the state, along with general afforestation schemes, to sequester carbon, and add greenery to our urban centres.
Sinn Féin would also deliver council investment in modern and safe play parks, leisure facilities, public parks, libraries, and community centres.
We are opposed to privatisation of public services and the sale of public assets. For example, we led the opposition to the demolition of Moore Street, and continue to support the establishment of a public historical quarter in the area.