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Enshrine right to housing in Constitution – Doherty

31 October, 2007

Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty ahs called for the right to housing to be enshrined in the Constitution. Speaking during a Seanad debate on Developments in the Housing Market Senator Doherty said housing policy in Ireland is fundamentally inequitable and unbalanced.

He said, "Housing policy in Ireland is fundamentally inequitable and unbalanced in a number of respects, and needs to change. There has been an over-emphasis on the financial gains to be made from housing at the expense of its social role, which is central to the well-being of the nation. The private property speculator, developer and rental sectors are being hugely subsidised by the State at the taxpayer's expense.

"The decrease in social and affordable housing is pushing people into the private rented sector where they lack security of tenure, or forcing them into dangerous over-mortgaging in order to buy, or into crowded accommodation with their extended family or - in the worst case scenario - out on the streets.

"Sinn Féin's objective is to establish an equitable, balanced and fairly regulated housing market led by the social (public) sector. This requires a strategic approach, coordinated on an all-Ireland basis. This means expanding the social sector to the extent that it meets the needs of all those in need of housing on the waiting list and offers a viable and attractive alternative to private home ownership. This, in addition to measures to tackle excessive land costs and speculation, will contribute to stabilising private house price inflation.

"In 2005 over 40,000 households were on the waiting list for social housing in the Twenty-Six Counties. Nearly four out of ten of these households had spent over two years on the waiting list while one in seven had been on the list for more than four years. In the Six Counties, approximately 30,000 households were on the waiting list in the same period.

"House prices are now increasing at nearly twice the rate of wage increases. Little wonder then that public sector workers such as nurses, fire-fighters and teachers can no longer afford to buy in our major cities.

"It is time for this government to enshrine the right to housing in the constitution, as Sinn Féin has long argued. We also need 'get-out clauses' for developers under the Planning and Development Acts to be removed that allow them to pay off local authorities rather than provide social and affordable housing units.

"Sinn Féin believes that having a roof over ones head is a basic human right; it is high time that Fianna Fáil adopt this view." ENDS

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