The Simon Communities in Ireland, members of the ESC Rights Initiative, are welcomed the UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, to Ireland on the 11th June 2018.

Ms. Farha was the keynote speaker at a Simon Communities event, ‘Making the Case for a Right to Housing, which took place in Dublin. Other speakers included Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Senator Colette Kelleher and Niamh Randall of the Simon Communities.

As our ESC Rights Initiative continue to remind, the Constitutional Convention recommended in February 2015 the inclusion of legally enforceable socio-economic rights in the Constitution including the right to housing.

In 2017 the Right to Housing Bill sought to insert a right to housing into the Constitution by amendment to Article 43. The Bill was defeated in the Dáil but referred for further consideration to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform. With the Simon Communities we call on this Committee to consider the provisions of this bill urgently making recommendation to Government.

The Simon Communities hope their new paper will contribute to the ongoing conversation on the possible routes to deliver greater protections and obligations with regard to housing and homelessness in Ireland. Across multiple jurisdictions, the right to housing has been delivered through both constitutional and statutory reform involving institutional and non-judicial mechanisms.

‘It is time for a national conversation on the right to housing in Ireland’, said Niamh Randall of the Simon Communities. ‘With record numbers trapped in emergency accommodation, on the social housing waiting lists and experiencing ‘hidden homelessness’, it is clear the current approach to housing is not working. A right to housing is not about the State ensuring home ownership for all. This is an unrealistic expectation and a soundbite often used by those who wish to undermine progress on this issue. A right to housing would provide a ‘floor’ in respect of access to adequate housing for all, obliging the state to reasonably protect and fulfil that right. For example, where the gap between Housing Assistance Payments and market rents are so great that far too many people cannot afford to rent a home, the right to housing would allow this to be constitutionally challenged. Eighty-one countries around the world have a constitutionally protected right to housing.

There are almost 10,000 people stuck in emergency accommodation while many more are ‘hidden homeless’ with no choice but to share with family and friends. These 10,000 people are the visible and statistical embodiment of this broken system, but represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of housing instability and insecurity. They are people trying to live their lives in very difficult circumstances characterised by stress, trauma and uncertainty. We need to transition from emergency-led responses to a statutory homelessness preventative model underpinned by State obligations to respect, protect and fulfil citizen’s basic right to adequate housing.’ 

Media coverage of the event:

UN backs calls to make housing a constitutional right in Ireland – The Irish Times

Simon Communities event hears call for housing to be a constitutional right in Ireland – The Irish Examiner