Housing must be seen as a human right in new strategy

Published date30 August 2021
AuthorPJ Drudy
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
The starting point for the new housing strategy must be recognition of the need for a radical departure from an undue dependence on the private sector over recent decades. In particular, this would require that Irish housing policy would be underpinned by a new philosophy which provides a central role for the Government and key statutory bodies in the supply of housing.

It would mean that the Housing Agency, local authorities, housing associations, co-operatives and the Land Development Agency would become major providers of publicly owned social housing as well as self-financing cost-rental homes for those above the income threshold for social housing. The ensuing competition would reduce house prices and rents. In addition to increasing supply in this way, any measures which increase demand and hence house prices must be avoided.

The new housing strategy should be based on the premise that housing is a fundamental human right. This right is recognised in a number of international human right treaties which Ireland has ratified. In so doing, the Government committed itself to the "progressive realisation" of the right to housing and to ensuring that it would be enjoyed by every person in the State "without discrimination of any kind".

The right to housing would not be fulfilled merely by the provision of basic shelter but rather requires that housing be affordable, secure and appropriate to need. Housing for All should thus recognise that housing is a right.

Across the world, housing has increasingly come to be treated as a commodity and an investment opportunity rather than a basic social good. The former UN special rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, clearly set out how this global financialisation of housing posed a significant threat to affordability and the realisation of the right to housing. In recent decades, such financialisation has been all too prominent a feature of housing in Ireland with a range of policies enabling or at least permitting its continuance.

Multinational landlords

Of particular concern has to be the role which large-scale, institutional landlords now play in the Irish housing system. In Dublin, for example, multinational landlords acquired considerable numbers of apartments, free of capital gains tax, during the downturn and now charge rents far beyond the means of most families and individuals. Such landlords have, in effect, an anti-competitive monopoly in much of Dublin, which allows them to charge such high...

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