Constitutional right to home required, Dáil committee told

Right to housing would offer ‘floor of protection’ to all, says resource centre solicitor

 Maeve Regan, managing solicitor of Mercy Law Resource Centre: She told the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness that a constitutional amendment would be an enduring, fundamental protection of the principle of a home for every adult and child in the State.  Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells

Maeve Regan, managing solicitor of Mercy Law Resource Centre: She told the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness that a constitutional amendment would be an enduring, fundamental protection of the principle of a home for every adult and child in the State. Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells

 

The Government has been urged to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.

Maeve Regan, managing solicitor of Mercy Law Resource Centre, said the scale of the crisis had not been seen since the State’s foundation.

She said a constitutional right to housing would not mean the right to a key to a home for all, but “would put in place a basic floor of protection, requiring the State in its decisions and its policies to protect the right to housing in balance with other rights”.

The centre provides free legal aid for the homeless, or people facing homelessness, and recently produced a report on the issue. It has so far advised close to 4,000 families and individuals.

Policy failure

Oireachtas

She said the homelessness crisis was due to a policy failure, adding that a constitutional amendment would be an enduring, fundamental protection of the principle of a home for every adult and child in the State. Ms Regan said such a move should be a key priority of the current Dáil.

Her centre, she said, met families being accommodated for indefinite periods in one room in hotels and B&B outlets. They could not cook for themselves, and the children had to travel long distances to schools, she added. This was impacting on the mental and physical health of families.

Rent control

Trinity College

He said rent control did not exist now. “What does exist is rent regulation, where rents are changed in line with inflation, or some percentage, and improvement to the premises,’’ he added.

“And that, to me, is entirely reasonable and that is the situation in quite a range of European countries.’’

Master of the High Court Edmond Honohan warned legislation introducing rent control would probably be rejected in a court challenge. He said it would be difficult to see the Supreme Court letting it through, given the issue had already gone through the court “cauldron’’ twice.