State faces Strasbourg action over ‘poor-quality’ housing

Residents of 20 council estates in Dublin, Cork and Limerick cite human rights breach

A class action against the State, taken by residents of 20 local authority estates, alleging poor-quality housing is breaching their human rights, has been declared admissible by the European Committee of Social Rights in Strasbourg.

The residents, who live in flats and houses in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, say "substandard housing conditions" and the fact there is no independent body to which they can complain about these conditions breach their rights under five sections of the Revised European Social Charter.

They received confirmation yesterday that their action, known as a “collective complaint”, will be considered. The Government will now have to respond and the tenants’ groups may be asked to respond further.

Committee of m

inisters A decision on the merits of the complaint should be made within a year. A finding that the State is in breach of the c


harter would not be not legally binding but continued nonconformity with the charter could lead to a resolution by the committee of ministers of the council against Ireland. No member state has ignored such a resolution.

Dr Pádraic Kenna of the school of law at NUI Galway, who wrote the complaint, said a finding in the tenants' favour should lead to fundamental changes in the provision and management of social housing and establish rights for public housing tenants that could be used across Europe.

Social exclusion

Among the poor housing conditions cited are persistent damp, mould growing inside homes, persistent bad odours, poor plumbing

and lack of central heating. These, the complaint says, have had an impact on the health of adults and children, caused children to miss school and adults to miss work, as well as causing shame, stress and damage to mental health. The conditions exacerbate social exclusion and poverty and promised regeneration has stalled in many estates, it says.

The State has failed to incorporate fundamental charter rights into the legal, policy and administrative framework of social housing policy, it says.

Among the rights breached are the right to health, rights of the family, rights of children to appropriate social, legal and economic protection, the right to be protected against poverty and social exclusion and the right to nondiscrimination, it says.

The 47-page collective complaint was lodged on the complainants’ behalf by the International Federation of Human Rights Organisations.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times