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Sinn Féin proposes three year rent freeze and tax relief for renters – Pearse Doherty TD

12 September, 2018 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty proposed a tax relief for renters alongside a three year emergency rent freeze ahead of the upcoming budget.

The Donegal TD announced that the policy would form part of Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget proposals aimed at tackling the growing cost of living and housing crises in the State.

Speaking today as he closed Sinn Féin’s ‘A New Economy for a Changing Ireland’ conference, Teachta Doherty said:

“Sinn Féin, and I as the party’s Finance spokesperson, are determined for the first time on our island to drive a real debate about our economy. Faced with social crises and economic risk, we need a new consensus and a new set of ideas. This is the purpose of our conference today.

“We want a new Ireland, based on shared prosperity, where no one is left behind. This will also be the focus of our Alternative Budget.

“Rent prices, which are 34% above peak in Dublin, are the highest in the history of the state, and rising. Countless young people have been convinced that they will never own a home of their own.

“Struggling families and young people are locked into a cycle of sky high rents, and locked out of the housing market as their bills disappear month-in, month-out into the coffers of landlords.

“So today I am announcing a bold and urgent policy in keeping with our priorities in the coming budget to tackle this growing cost of living crisis.

“Sinn Féin is proposing the introduction of a temporary tax relief for renters.

“This relief will cover the price of one month’s rent for every renter in the State for a period of three years. In other words, the relief will be 8.3% of rent paid in a year. It will be capped at €1,500 per renter, and will be refundable to ensure working families on low incomes can benefit.

“Alongside this measure, Sinn Féin is proposing a three year, emergency rent freeze.

“Existing tenancies would have their rents frozen at their current levels. All new tenancies would be pegged to the Residential Tenancies Board standardised average rent index by County and where appropriate Local Electoral Area.

“Sinn Féin will also double capital investment in public housing to deliver an ambitious programme of Council led social and affordable homes for those on Council waiting lists and for working families unable to rent or buy in the private market

“These measures amount to a housing crisis package which is alone in its scope and ambition among political parties in this state.

“Our emergency rent freeze and one month’s rent back for renters are some of many bold ideas outlined in our Alternative Budget, aimed at driving a new economic consensus where the needs of citizens are front and centre.

“It’s time for a new discussion about our society and economy on this island, and Sinn Féin will be leading this discussion.” 

ENDS//

Note to editors: Full text of Deputy Doherty's speech is available below.

New ideas, and new consensus

We have organised this conference because Ireland needs a new set of ideas, and a new debate our economy. 

For decades in post-war Europe, an economic consensus prevailed that established human welfare as the defining motivation of economic activity.

Historic, effective and sustainable levels of state investment ensured generations of those devastated by the fallout of war would enjoy flourishing, security and fulfilment as their right. 

The expansion of social housing transformed living standards for countless citizens. 

Universal healthcare become the backbone of the welfare state, and remains so in many European states. These were once birth-rights, equal in value to citizenship itself. 

It was a consensus that the state could not leave people behind. Unfortunately for generation of Irish citizens, this consensus never reached our shores. 

In its place were the politics of gombeenism, and groups of men who ruled in their own interest. And while Irish governments occasionally bowed to popular demand, delivering public services paling in comparison to European counterparts, they were not the product of a progressive, people-centred consensus. 

The Celtic Tiger and the extraordinary economic growth that defined it perhaps gave Irish citizens a glimpse of living standards that could of been achieved in this state, living standards already enjoyed across much of the hemisphere. 

But while this growth afforded us great opportunity to achieve social advances, it was never accompanied by a set of values which allowed this social progress to be sustainable. 

And in the end it wasn’t – ultimately the Irish people would pay the price for the most catastrophic economic crisis in the history of the State.

This crisis of values, and stagnation of ideas, consigned a generation of young people to emigration and of lost faith in the land of their birth. 

It wrote off the hopes and opportunities of whole communities on this island, many of which are yet to recover. 

A decade of potential for social and economic progress for our island has been lost irrevocably. 

What might have been a period of advancement, has instead been one of regression for large sections of our population. 

Sinn Féin, and I as the party’s Finance spokesperson, are determined for the first time our island, a real debate about our economy. Indeed, it must be a debate about a new consensus, and new economic values. 

What kind of society do we want, what do citizens need, and how can these objectives be achieved fairly and sustainably? 

How can we achieve efficient and world-class public services, accessible to every citizen as a right? 

How can we share our islands prosperity to eradicate deprivation and inequality, and the myriad social ills which they breed?

How can we invest to unlock the promise of every young person and community, as entrepreneurs or community workers, left behind by the economics of conservatism?

And how can we drive social and economic progress towards these goals in the shadow of Brexit, or when a cyclical period of plenty is followed by a period of less?

We want a new Ireland, where no one is left behind. This has been the focus of this conference, and for us, it is also the focus of the coming Budget. 

When Sinn Féin present our alternative budget we will tell the people that it’s is about choices, like all economic decision making. It’s about choices, and the values which define them. 

Alternative Budget 

When Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil announce what will be their third set of choices together on 9 th October, none of the thousands of children in emergency accommodation, or those on a hospital waiting list for essential surgery, will be surprised to find out that they are once again at the back of the queue. 

Sinn Féin, proposing a new set of values, a new consensus, and a bold set of ideas for our economy will set out different choices. 

When we present them in our Alternative Budget on 2nd October, our choices, a decade on from the crisis which shook this state to its core, will speak to these lost years, and their lingering effects. 

We will tackle living costs which are among the highest in the world. We will lay out investment plans which begin to build a new economy of universal public services, strong workers’ rights, and which address the legacy of Fine Gael policy which has squandered so much human potential.

We will invest in communities and in infrastructure left to fall away for years. 

Debt and deficit targets 

In keeping with our ambitious investment plans, this will be an Alternative Budget with a progressive vision of how to manage our state finances, sustainably, and in keeping with our international commitments and our commitments to the needs of Irish citizens. 

Our Budget choices will continue to reduce the deficit, reach our structural deficit targets under the MTO this year, the same year as government. 

Furthermore, our plans will bring the state’s debt below our 60% of GDP target, also in the same year as the government (2021). 

By meeting these targets Sinn Féin will not allow the Government to turn this Budget into another debate about ‘prudence’ – their failure is about choices and political will. 

Supporting SMEs 

Our plans will also ensure that the state fulfils its responsibility in supporting and nourishing a diverse, dynamic, and socially responsible private sector. 

The challenges facing small and medium businesses have been growing for some time. They face sky-high insurance premiums and rents, and infrastructure deficits which continue to deter balanced regional investment.

Crucially, they must also contend with a state investment policy which has for too long prized FDI over the growth of local businesses rooted in their communities. 

Sinn Féin’s commitment to shared prosperity is expressed in our support for small and medium business. 

In the face of Brexit and other significant threats, we believe the state has a role in closing the indigenous productivity gap with booming multi-nationals, and promoting a greater diversity of markets for Irish goods to restore greater balance to our exports. 

Our Budget will speak to the needs of struggling small businesses in difficult times, and will invest in what is needed to secure long-term, stable and shared prosperity – education, infrastructure, and in greater support. 

Our over-reliance on a handful of multinationals has also built added risk into our state finances, as Sinn Féin as warned for many years. 

The stark over-reliance on corporate tax receipts threatens the stability of our tax base, and by extension, our public services. 

Our plans to assist the growth and development of small business will also ensure less dependence on tax receipts we cannot guarantee will be here in the time ahead. 

But as we experience this windfall we also see an opportunity to address the social and economic neglect of the lost decade.

It is not appropriate to use this windfall to rely on an increase in day-to-day spending or tax cuts, but in the face of severe housing shortage, they might be used for major construction of social housing.

Housing Policy Announcement 

But today I am also happy to announce a bold and urgent policy in keeping with our commitment to a new economic discussion. 

The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil policy consensus has miserably failed to address a deep, complex and multi-faceted housing and homelessness crisis which is a direct result of their decisions in government. 

In our Alternative Budget we will lay out decisive, radical and effective plans to address one of the core components of this crisis. 

While homelessness and the issue of housing shortage continues to intensify, renters across the state are facing a unique crisis of their own. 

Rent prices, which are 34% above peak in Dublin, are the highest in the history of the state, and have convinced countless young people and young families that they will never own a home of their own. 

They are locked into a cycle of sky-high rents, and locked out of the housing market as their bills disappear month-in, month-out into the coffers of landlords. 

Coupled with childcare costs which are among the highest in Europe, and rising energy bills which are the 4th highest in Europe, this is a full scale cost of living crisis. 

For too many people, life in Ireland is simply unaffordable. So Sinn Féin are taking action – in our Alternative Budget Sinn Féin are proposing a three year, emergency rent freeze. 

As of Budget day, the costs of existing rents would not rise for three years, with the freeze being reviewed every 12 months. 

Existing tenancies would have their rents frozen at their current levels. All new tenancies would be pegged to the Residential Tenancies Board standardised average rent index by County and where appropriate Local Electoral Area. 

In an effort to further tackle the cost of living crisis, Sinn Féin will also be proposing the introduction of an emergency, temporary tax relief for renters, linked to our emergency freeze. 

This relief will cover the price of one month’s rent for every renter in the state. In other words, the relief will be 8.3% of rent paid in a year. It will be capped at €1,500 per renter, and will be refundable to ensure working families on low incomes can benefit. 

Sinn Féin will also double capital investment in public housing to deliver an ambitious programme of Council led social and affordable homes for those on Council waiting lists and for working families unable to rent or buy in the private market.

These measures amount to a housing crisis package which is alone in its scope and ambition among political parties in this state. 

Our emergency rent freeze and one months tax relief for renters are some of many bold ideas outlined in our Alternative Budget, aimed at driving a new economic consensus where the needs of citizens are front and centre.

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