Catholic groups call for housing to be key election issue

Social justice organisations say family homelessness rose 90% during 2015

Catholic groups said the policy of the last 20 years of relying on the private rented sector to meet social housing needs had proven “a dismal failure”. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Catholic groups said the policy of the last 20 years of relying on the private rented sector to meet social housing needs had proven “a dismal failure”. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Four Catholic Church-related social justice organisations have called on all candidates and voters in the forthcoming general election to make housing and homelessness key issues in the campaign.

Bishop John McAreavey noted that, “Pope Francis has referred to the right to housing as ‘a sacred right’.”

The Catholic Bishops Council for Justice and Peace, the St Vincent de Paul, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice pointed out in a joint statement that “family homelessness rose by 90 per cent during 2015”.

That, they said, was “just the tip of the housing crisis iceberg”. There were “tens of thousands of individuals” living in households which were on waiting lists for social housing with many others facing the risk of losing their home as a result of long-term mortgage arrears.

A policy of the last 20 years of relying on the private rented sector to meet social housing needs had proven “a dismal failure”. It had contributed to a “massive growth in family homelessness in recent years and to the numbers on local authority waiting lists more than doubling since 2005 and tripling since 1993,” they said.

The next Government should adopt a policy “which would make social housing that is owned and managed by local authorities and not-for-profit bodies the primary means of meeting social housing needs,” they said, with “the principle that housing is a fundamental human right” guiding all housing policy.

They noted that “despite extensive media coverage and expressions of public concern regarding the housing crisis, the urgency and seriousness of the issue do not seem to be reflected in the public discourse in the run-up to the election.”

‘Immense hardship’

The current housing crisis was “causing immense hardship and stress to great numbers of Irish households. For these families and individuals, ‘recovery’ from the recession is having little meaningful impact on their lives.”

The groups pointed out that Ireland had ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose provisions included the right to housing.

In doing so “the State committed itself to doing all in its power to realise the right to housing for everyone in this country. This should be the guiding principle and the driving force behind all policies relating to housing, including the provision of social housing, during the lifetime of the next Dáil.”