Housing crisis: There is no constitutional block to rent freezes in Ireland

Though Irish property law is complex, there is ample scope to respond to the crisis

“There is ample scope within the current constitutional framework to introduce measures that restrict the exercise of property rights, for example to respond to the current housing crisis.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

“There is ample scope within the current constitutional framework to introduce measures that restrict the exercise of property rights, for example to respond to the current housing crisis.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Labour and Sinn Féin have committed to rent freezes in their general election manifestos. Fianna Fáil stated that on foot of legal advice that a general rent freeze would be unconstitutional, it would not support such a measure. The Government frequently states that constitutional property rights prevent the adoption of various responses to the current housing crisis. In response, critics (including the Green Party in its manifesto) call for a referendum to alter the Constitution’s protection of property rights and/or to include an individual right to housing.

Property rights are perhaps unique among individual rights in their exclusionary nature

In reality, the barriers that the Constitution poses for legislative measures that control how property can be used are not as clear as is often made out. There is significant scope in our existing constitutional order for property rights restrictions, the extent of which can be uncovered only through the introduction and testing of new measures.

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