The Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Wednesday (20th September) called on the government to urgently initiate a major local-authority led programme to generate 50,000 social housing units over the next five years, introduce measures to penalise ‘land hoarding’, speed the planning process and create a new rental model for Ireland. Launching a campaign aimed at tackling the housing and homeless crisis, Congress President Sheila Nunan said that government must now take the lead on social housing provision, through the local authorities.“The housing crisis now defines our society, for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong ways. Ceding control of the housing market entirely to the private sector has utterly failed. The state must now step in and assume responsibility for social housing provision in order to rebalance the broken housing market and vindicate the citizen’s basic right to a home and shelter.“Congress is proposing that, as a first step, government should declare a Housing Emergency and move with the urgency that an emergency situation demands. It should commit to increasing the social housing stock by no less 10,000 per annum over the next five years,” Ms Nunan said.General Secretary Patricia King said that Congress would seek to build a broad civil society coalition to press for urgent policy change on the issue.“The crisis is impacting on the living standards of working people and putting untold pressure on incomes, with 27% of disposable income going on rent in some areas.“We will meet with local authorities, political groupings and housing campaign groups to build consensus around a platform that will deliver a solution to this crisis and work to ensure that government responds,” Ms King said.“Along with a commitment to social housing provision, the government must also introduce a measures to penalise land hoarding which, under the circumstances, is unconscionable and tantamount to holding Irish society to ransom.”“There is enough serviced land in existence to build almost 400,000 homes. We believe local authorities should be empowered to make Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) of land for housing, at 25% above the agricultural land use value.“The Vacant Site Levy should be increased from 3% to 6% and introduced in January 2018, while holdups in the planning process should also be tackled,” she added.Tom Healy, head of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), pointed out that rent supplement to private landlords had cost the state some €5.5 billion, since 2002.“That money could have built 30,000 homes. That level of expenditure is unsustainable and must be brought down from its current level of 1.5% of GDP to a more sustainable 0.5% of GDP, in the medium term.“Critically, we need to wholly overhaul the current rental model and develop a European Cost Rental model in Ireland," Mr Healy concluded.