Is there a ‘Right to Housing’ in Ireland?

18 January 2016
By Bryan Smyth

The Green Party candidate for Cork North Central, Oliver Moran, called for a referendum on the right to housing at the Green Party general election conference in Dublin on Saturday.

File photo of Oliver Moran (General Election candidate) for Green Party in Cork North Central
File photo of Oliver Moran (General Election candidate) for Green Party in Cork North Central

Focus Ireland are also calling for the a referendum on the right to housing in order to bring Ireland into line with European norms.

“When you walk down Pana, St Patrick’s Street, and you look above the buildings you see so many empty units and at the same time you see people sleeping underneath them on the streets at night. There is this irony that we have so much housing stock that’s not being used and this homelessness crisis, supposedly, at the same time.”

“I think one of the truly innovative things in our manifesto is the idea of a right to housing. Because currently we’re a bit of an outlier in Europe in that we don’t have a constitutional right to housing. The property owner has a constitutional right to their property and that means that they have a greater right to put up rent or to decide how that property should be used as opposed to the people who need housing or the people who are living in the house at the time.”

“So, because of that, and I’m thinking of my own family and people close to me, you have a middle class homelessness where you have young people who cannot afford to live in adequate housing. You have older people who have rent put up and have to move back in with their children. And as well as that you also have an explosion of more traditional homelessness where for people on lower incomes there’s a shortfall in social housing stock. They find it difficult to get mortgages and of course the price of renting has gone exponential.”

“In Cork, this year alone, rental prices have gone up close to 15% whereas average wages have only just gone up 1%. And it’s even worse, closer to 20%, when you look at mortgage prices.”

In November, reported that rental prices in Cork had risen by 13.5% between September 2014 and September 2015. This was followed by their report in January that found that average Cork house prices rose by 20.7% in 2015.

In May 2015, 250 sites and buildings were identified as derelict in Cork city but only 24 of these were on the city’s Derelict Sites Register.

The city council can place a 3% annual levy on these. However, 90% of the value of these levies goes uncollected. Of €209,000 in levies on derelict properties issued by Cork City Council from 2012 to 2014, just €21,000 was actually collected.

The Green Party is also calling for reform of local property tax to discourage speculation and empty properties. This call was echoed by the ESRI in December.

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