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Eoin Ó Broin TD calls for referendum on the Right to Housing

14 May, 2019 - by Eoin Ó Broin TD

Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has called for a referendum on the Right to Housing.

Please see below the speech from Eoin Ó Broin on tonight's Sinn Féin PMB on the Right to a Home Bill.

35th Amendment to the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill 2016 - 2ndStage – Eoin Ó Broin TD

As each week passes the housing crisis gets worse. Rents continue to spiral out of control. House prices continue to rise & real social housing need continues to grow.

The number of adults and children in emergency accommodation has hit historic highs. By any meaningful indicator the Governments housing plan is failing and yet every day the Taoiseach and his Ministers claim Rebuilding Ireland is working

Yesterday’s rent report is further evidence that this Government has lost control and the Taoiseach & Ministers response to the report shows once again how out of touch they are.

How anyone can say Rent Pressure Zones are working when in Dublin new rents are up 7%, Limerick up 13%, Waterford up 16%, Galway up 17%. Average new rents across the State are now €1,300 a month.

You would need a take home pay of €4,000 for that to be affordable, in Dublin they now range from €1,700 to €2,200.

You would need a take home pay of between €5,500 & €7,000 for that to be affordable and yet without the slightest tinge of irony Minister Murphy told the Dáil today that Rent Pressure Zones are working.

Worse still he claimed yesterday that the rate of increase is the lowest since 2013.

Both of these statements are untrue. Data from the Residential Tenancy Board and show they are not true but that doesn’t matter to Minister Murphy.

He just makes it up as he goes along and carries on regardless. All the while tens of thousands of tenants are either strangled with excessive rents or locked out of the rental market, without any hope of making a home.

According to the number of properties available to rent last quarter was the lowest since 2006. Of course that is no surprise. Since January 2017 more than 12,000 rental properties have left the market.

Accidental and semi-professional landlords, taking advantage of rising house prices, are selling up and what is the Government doing to deal with this disorderly exit of rental properties from the market.

Absolutely nothing.

There is nothing in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill currently going through the Oireachtas that will address excessive rents being paid today or the loss of rental properties and while Sinn Féin is supporting the Bill because it contains measures we have been calling for since 2016.

It is like so much of this governments housing policy; too little, too late and already overtaken by events.

Fine Gael’s strategy for the private rental strategy is in tatters. It is not working, it is making things worse and so it is with social and affordable housing and homelessness and traveller accommodation and accommodation for people with disabilities and wheelchair users.

Why? Because Rebuilding Ireland is based on the same failed policy consensus that has dominated Government housing policy for decades. A consensus that underinvests in public housing and over-relies on the private sector to meet social and affordable need.

Last October when this chamber passed the Raise The Roof housing motion we made four demands;

Double capital investment in public housing, introduce emergency measures to stem the flow of families into homelessness, take urgent action to reduce rents and hold a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.

8 months on and these demands are more urgent than ever, and yet the Government refuses to listen.

The Bill before us tonight deals with one of these demands. The 35thAmendment to the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill is very simple. It seeks to insert the right to adequate, appropriate, secure, safe and affordable housing into this states foundational law.

It seeks to place an obligation on the state to ensure the realisation of this right through its laws and policies in accordance with the principals of social justice.

This proposition was endorsed by 84% of the Constitutional Convention in 2014.

It is a right that exists in many jurisdictions including Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. If passed it would not guarantee every person in the State a home but it would provide a basic floor of protection obliging the state to progressively realise that right.

According to the Mercy Law Centre who have published three separate reports on the issue have made clear that a Constitution right would:

“Mean that legislation and policy would have to be proofed to ensure they reasonably protect that right”

A legal right to a home is not a silver bullet. It will not solve all our housing problems overnight but it is an important tool that will ensure this Government and future governments introduce policies that  promote and protect access to appropriate, secure and affordable homes

I have no doubt that Fine Gael will oppose this Bill and no matter what the justification the real reason is because they fear human rights based approaches to social policy.

They fear the wrath of those in emergency accommodation, those crippled with excessive rent, those languishing on housing waiting lists and those locked out of buying or renting a home.

But tonight Fianna Fáil hold the balance of power. In the past Mícheál Martin’s party have voted down similar Bills.

Their housing spokesperson, Darragh O’Brien, has indicated a willingness to revisit the issue.

So my appeal to Fianna Fáil tonight is work with the rest of the opposition to advance this Bill. Sinn Féin is open to considering amendments at Committee stage if amendments are necessary.

We worked together on student accommodation and forced the Governments hand – to the great benefit of thousands of students.

We worked together on increasing Part V obligations forcing the Governments hand to increase the output of much needed social housing.

We worked together on the property tax relief Bill again forcing the Governments hand – to the benefit of thousands of hard pressed apartment owners and so tonight we can work together and force the Governments hand – to the benefit of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people in real housing need.

This Saturday Raise The Roofwill be marching on the streets of Dublin. Thousands of people will be demanding a legal right to housing.

The entire trade union movement, the entire student union movement, whole swathes of civil society, grass roots groups, citizens and residents will be calling on this chamber to act.

Tonight we have an opportunity to do the right thing; to take an important step forward in ending Fine Gael’s housing crisis.

To provide the people with an important tool to vindicate their right to appropriate, secure and affordable homes.

So lets do the right thing. Let’s pass the 25thAmendment to the Constitution Bill. Let’s provide a legal, constitutions right to a home and lets get out on the streets on Saturday and Raise The Roof demanding real solutions to our housing emergency.

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