The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for a €1 billion home-building fund, compulsory purchase orders, and the accelerated introduction of a Vacant Site Levy to address the homelessness crisis.

The call comes in the Congress pre-budget submission published today entitled "Investing for the Many, Not Just the Few".

Congress says the housing emergency is leading to greater inequality, higher living costs and is affecting the labour market.

General Secretary Patricia King said local authorities should take the lead in providing social housing as the only long-term and sustainable response to the crisis.

She called for a Government fund of at least €1 billion to be made available to deliver at least 10,000 social housing units a year by late 2018.

Ms King also called for compulsory purchase orders to be used to ensure that serviced land is put to good use, and recommended that the Vacant Site Levy should increased to 6% and brought forward from its target date of January 2019.

She said the Government should declare a national housing emergency, adding that abandoning the housing market to private developers and allowing profit to become the key driver of housing provision had failed.

Ms King said Ireland could not afford to return to what she called the "developer-led" policies of previous years, despite recent attempts from that sector to extract more tax breaks and subsidies in order to build houses.

She also noted that in the medium term, the housing crisis will discourage inward investment, drive up living costs for working people and impact adversely on the labour market.

Congress favours the abolition of the "Help to Buy" scheme, with that funding allocated to local authorities for housing construction. 

She also said that Congress would continue to campaign for an end to the special 9% reduced rate of VAT enjoyed by the hospitality/tourism sector, describing it as a €2.2bn "de facto subsidy" to what she called a highly profitable and predominantly low wage sector.

Ms King also called for additional investment in public services including education, health and childcare in a bid to lower living costs and boost a social wage for working people.

Congress also cautions against further income or capital gains tax cuts will slow progress towards sound and sustainable finances.

It notes that over €2 billion of the 2018-2021 fiscal space is currently allocated to tax cuts, but says that this is not affordable, particularly at a time of significant infrastructure deficits.

It also wants social welfare payments to be restored in 2018 by more than the expected cost of living increases.

Among other Congress proposals are increasing Employers PRSI to 13.75% on incomes above €100,000 as a "ring-fenced" childcare levy.

It wants the personal tax credit gradually withdrawn from higher income earners, and entirely eliminated for those earning over €100,000.