Constitutional right to housing is ‘morally and socially’ correct, Seanad hears

A debate on a private member’s bill to amend the Constitution to ensure every citizen has the right to housing took place in the Seanad on Friday.
Constitutional right to housing is ‘morally and socially’ correct, Seanad hears

Cate McCurry, PA

The constitutional right to housing is “morally, politically, economically and socially” the right thing to do, the Seanad has heard.

A debate on a private member’s bill to amend the Constitution to ensure that every citizen has the right to housing took place in the Seanad on Friday.

Fianna Fáil Seanad spokeswoman on housing Senator Mary Fitzpatrick said a constitutional right to housing would “permanently assert the State’s responsibility to ensure access for all citizens to adequate, safe and affordable housing”.

Ms Fitzpatrick called on Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to “exercise every resource” to ensure every citizen has a home.

She told the Seanad the housing crisis has a grip on the country, adding the number of homeless people is “unacceptable”.

Fianna Fáil brought the private member’s motion on Friday.

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan said a constitutional right to housing would make a difference, but added it would not end the housing crisis overnight and is “not a silver bullet”.

“We need to make sure that we have the policy choices and the laws to back that up, to vindicate people’s right to housing, to vindicate to housing standards, to vindicate the right to long lease and to vindicate the right to have a decent standard of living,” Ms Moynihan added.

It would amend Article 43 of the Constitution, which covers private property rights, to include that “the State recognises, and shall vindicate, the right of all persons to have access to adequate housing”.

It would also include “the State shall, through legislative and other measures, provide for the realisation of this right within its available resources”.

It comes a day after a similar bill proposed by People Before Profit passed the second stage in the Dáil.

While the wording of the bill differs slightly from Fianna Fáil's version, it too calls for a right to housing to be included in the Constitution.

 

Ms Fitzpatrick said the current policies in place to deal with the country’s housing crisis need to go further.

“It’s about the State going further, it’s about the State making a permanent commitment to every citizen that they have access to a secure and affordable home,” she said.

“During the pandemic, it’s been obvious as to how important a home is to our own personal safety.

“There’s far too many homeless people in our society, it’s an issue we are addressing.

“There are far too many people who cannot afford to buy their own home or even a secure rental so we are securing that in the legislation.”

She said the “unrealistic” policies put forward by other parties is not the way to go.

“We want the State to make a permanent commitment that every citizen has a right to their home” she added.

“Our Constitution protects and vindicates the right to private property, but we want to counterbalance that right.”

She said that she hopes for cross-party support during the debate of the bill in the Seanad.

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