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The Right to Housing in Ireland: Challenges and Perspectives

The Right to Housing and How it has Changed

“Many consider the right to housing a basic human right.  Has the provision of adequate housing for it’s citizens proven problematical in Ireland?  Critically discuss the matter.  Support your answer with reference to Economic and Social Policy related perspectives, both nationally and internationally, utilising up to date and relevant evidence and reference materials

Right to housing and how it has changed. The right to housing is articulated most comprehensively in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Aspects of the right to housing are also set out in a range of international instruments, including EU law. How that right is realised in practice depends on a complex mix of policy issues and choices, including tenure choice, quality of stock, supply, adaptability and affordability, to name but a few. These issues become even more complex in the context of scarcity. In the space of just one decade, Ireland has experienced an economic crash caused by a credit-fuelled oversupply of property, to a homelessness crisis caused by a lack of appropriate accommodation. Between 2006 and 2011, the housing stock in Ireland grew by 225,232. Between 2011 and 2016 that number was 8,800.

There is international and national legislation prohibiting discrimination relating to housing and accommodation services, including in respect of people in receipt of Rent Supplement, housing assistance payments or other social welfare payments. Evidence-based research illustrating if any groups in our society face more discrimination than others is crucial to help our understanding of what choices face our society in seeking to realise people’s right to housing.

greater understanding of discrimination and unequal housing outcomes across certain groups. These are the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2014 and 2015; the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) 2004, 2010, 2014, and the 2016 Census module on homelessness. Using a variety of data sources has the advantage of strengthening the evidence base that we can use to inform and direct policy provision in this area.

accessing housing; housing quality; and a profile of the homeless population. The results are disaggregated according to different population groups, which enable us to identify if any groups experience more discrimination than others

The importance of a stable and sustainable supply of good quality housing for our society is incontrovertible. Houses become homes, which in turn create neighbourhoods and communities. These enable members of our society to flourish. All of these components are essential for a good quality of life. People need different levels of support to enable them to live independently in the community. For example, we are now living longer in Ireland and supports to enable older people to continue to live at home continue to grow and diversify. Also, the current policy of removing people with disabilities from congregated settings to live in the community is underway. All of these developments and other issues highlighted in this report will continue to impact on the housing landscape in Ireland

The Irish housing model has traditionally relied on high levels of home ownership. The level of home ownership rose steadily throughout the second half of the 20th Century, reaching a peak of just under 80 per cent in the 1990s (Fahey and Maître, 2004) but subsequently falling to 70 per cent in 2011 (Norris 2016). Social housing schemes formed a second pillar of the Irish housing model, however Ireland was distinctive in the early introduction of tenant purchase schemes, so that ‘from the early 4 | Discrimination and inequality in housing in Ireland 1970s older public housing stock was sold as fast as new public housing was built’ (Fahey and Maître, 2004, p.284). In recent decades, however, the social housing stock has not been adequately replenished, resulting in the proportion of the housing stock comprised of social housing falling from 18 per cent in 1961 to just 9 per cent in 2011 (Byrne and Norris, 2018), before rising marginally to 10 per cent in the 2016 Census.

Since the early 2000s the housing market in Ireland has been in rapid flux. During the economic boom a property bubble developed pushing house prices to unsustainable levels, barring access to those on lower incomes and leading to over-indebtedness among many Irish households (Russell et al., 2011). With the financial crash and subsequent recession, house and rental prices fell but household incomes also took a substantial hit. Consequently, the number of households in mortgage arears swelled and the proportion of households experiencing difficulties meeting housing costs increased (Whelan et al., 2016; Maître and Nolan, 2016).

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