‘Home for Good’ Launches General Election Campaign to Rebalance Constitution and Protect Safe and Secure Housing

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Read the position paper here

The group is calling for the next programme for Government to include a commitment on a referendum to amend the Constitution to better protect the common good by recognising a right to safe and secure housing

January 22nd: A broad new coalition of organisations called ‘Home for Good’ launches today, with a goal of ensuring that the next Government commits to a referendum to rebalance the Constitution in order to protect the right to decent, affordable and secure housing for all in the Irish Constitution.

Home for Good will push for a commitment that the next Programme for Government will lay out a clear pathway to a Constitutional referendum on the protection of housing, so as to provide for the right to housing and therefore rebalance the protection of property rights in favour of the common good. The group is calling for a national conversation ahead of a referendum to amend the Constitution to better protect the common good by recognising the right to safe and secure housing for all.

Speakers at today’s launch will include Fergus Finlay, former CEO of Barnardos, Senator Colette Kelleher, Rebecca Keatinge, Managing Solicitor of Mercy Law, and current Chair of Home for Good, Ann FitzGerald BL.

Members in attendance will include housing and homeless organisations (Focus Ireland, the Mercy Law Resource Centre, Respond, Simon Communities, and Threshold), Forsa, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Speaking ahead of the event, Fergus Finlay said: “The housing crisis in Ireland is affecting all of us. It’s destroying families, hurting the development of children, and leaving scars that will last for years. There is no easy way to tackle the crisis and lots of disagreement about what’s needed but one thing we can do urgently is to address the problem with our own Constitution. We need to ensure the realisation of a right to a home for all by holding a referendum to rebalance the Constitution in order to better protect the common good.”

Senator Colette Kelleher said: “As legislators, we have been told time and again that numerous proposals for real, lasting reform to our housing market cannot progress because of the protection of property rights in the Constitution. In the lifetime of the last Government alone, 12 Bills were blocked due to the current property rights provisions of the Constitution. These Bills were designed to protect families from entering homelessness; to declare a housing emergency; and to extend rent pressure zones. They were all aimed at protecting the common good in the face of this awful crisis but they were all stopped by a very restrictive interpretation of property rights in the Constitution.

“The people of Ireland want to see this crisis ended urgently and the Constitution cannot and should not stand in the way. It is in everyone’s interests that we tackle this issue and ensure that, as a country, we are not held to ransom by an overly strict interpretation of property protection. It’s high time we see a referendum to ensure a right to decent, affordable and secure housing in our Constitution.”

Managing Solicitor of the Mercy Law Resource Centre, Rebecca Keatinge, an independent law centre and registered charity representing people at the coal face of the homelessness crisis, added: “At MLRC, we are working at the sharp end of the housing crisis, dealing with individuals who struggle to access the most basic of human necessities, a place to sleep for the night. From these multiple interactions with those experiencing housing crisis, we have identified many gaps in the housing system. And one of the glaring gaps is a gap in legal protection. Housing is of central importance to enjoying other basic necessities – be it health, education, employment, family life, and civic and political participation. Without a home or a place to lay your head, you cannot engage with society and cannot participate in any meaningful sense in that society. Legal protection of safe and secure housing will fill a void in the housing system and help us address the current housing crisis, safeguarding against recurrence of such a crisis in the future.”
“Inserting the right to housing into our Constitution is not a radical or unusual step. A right to housing is provided in 81 Constitutions around the world, and a statutory right to housing is provided in several other jurisdictions, including France and Scotland. This does not mean that everyone has a right to a free house – it merely puts in place a basic floor of protection, requiring the State, in its decisions and policies, to reasonably protect the constitutional right.”
Chair of Home for Good, Ann FitzGerald, added: “A right to housing is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution nor is there any guidance in the text of the Constitution on how to balance the right to private property with the requirements of the common good. This is not good enough in 21st century Ireland where we have been in the midst of a housing crisis for ten years and more.
Home for Good will be actively campaigning and engaging with all the candidates throughout the General Election 2020 campaign.

Campaign Launch
Date: Wednesday, 22nd January 2020
Time: 11.00 am (from 10.30am for media)
Venue: Academy House, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2.