Flac seeks ‘right to adequate housing’ principle

Homelessness charity Focus Ireland publishes ‘five key demands’ for the election

Flac does not believe the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, a guide drawn up by the Central Bank,  serves people well. Photograph: Frank Miller

Flac does not believe the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, a guide drawn up by the Central Bank, serves people well. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The “unstable” economic recovery will not improve the lives of thousands of people without focused strategies to ensure they can access their rights and entitlements, a leading human rights advocate has warned.

Director of the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) Noeline Blackwell said there was still “deeply problematic discrimination” in some policy areas.

The adoption of a “right to adequate housing” principle in public policy would transform the housing crisis, she added.

Ms Blackwell was speaking as Flac’s election briefing for all candidates was published. “There is a great danger that a large group of people, who were disadvantaged before the recession, were particularly hurt during the recession, will be left even further behind during the recovery,” she said. Arrears crisis The briefing says the homelessness crisis spans all social groups. “In particular Flac highlights the danger of homelessness arising from the number of mortgage accounts in deep arrears . . . The long-promised full suite of measures to tackle the arrears crisis has still to be delivered so that seven years on, troubled borrowers still lack sufficient supports.”

Flac does not believe the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, a guide drawn up by the Central Bank on how banks should deal with customers in arrears, serves people well, “with its lack of accountability . . . and lack of an appeals mechanism”. It recommends borrowers have access to legal advice and representation when dealing with banks or petitioning for bankruptcy and an expansion of the mortgage to rent scheme.

Long delays, averaging 24 weeks, in processing appeals against Department of Social Protection decisions to stop or reduce social welfare payments were leaving thousands of people “without the minimum income required to maintain their life in dignity”. Unstable recovery Flac also calls for an end to “discrimination on the grounds of age” against unemployed people under 26, who are entitled to €100 per week unemployment assistance between 18 and 24 years, €144 at age 25 and €188 thereafter.

“We really cannot ignore that fact that the world is still very unsteady, that the recovery is very unstable and there is an awful risk that all sorts of groups will be left behind unless a concerted effort is made to ensure the most vulnerable people can actually access justice and their rights.”

Separately homelessness charity Focus Ireland published its “five key demands” for the election. Among these are that the next government “build at least 40,000 social houses”, hold a referendum to enshrine a constitutional ‘right to a home’ and draw up a plan to “end family homelessness”.