FLAC: Housing for All must be built on foundations of Rights and Equality
2 September 2021
FLAC welcomes the aspirations to end homelessness and increase social and affordable housing in the Government’s Housing for All plan. However, FLAC is concerned that the plan is not properly based on human rights and equality standards.
The housing plan contains ambitious and much-needed commitments in relation to; the delivery of social housing; the eradication of homelessness; the implementation of the White Paper to End Direct Provision; and the implementation of the recommendations of the Expert Group Report on Traveller Accommodation. However, FLAC believes that the absence of a clearly articulated right to housing contributed to the emergence of the housing crisis, and any solution to the crisis must be founded in the principle of housing as a human right as required by our international human rights obligations.
FLAC Managing Solicitor Sinéad Lucey commented:
“FLAC’s work in recent years has been dominated by issues concerning housing and homelessness so we are very aware of its devastating effects on the most marginalised communities. The Housing for All plan aspires to eradicate homelessness and resolve the housing crisis. However, this potential can only be realised if the delivery of the plan is grounded on the principles of equality and human rights, including the right to respect for privacy and family life as protected by the Constitution. Delivering a housing system which is based on these principles must include legally enforceable minimum standards. The plan’s commitment to advance proposals on a referendum on housing and to ‘examine the potential for independent regulation of the social housing sector’ are therefore to be welcomed. However, the absence of commitments to provide minimum legislative standards in relation to emergency accommodation, Traveller accommodation and the system replacing Direct Provision is regrettable.”
Since March 2020, FLAC has operated a dedicated Traveller Legal Service (TLS). As noted in a recent submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community, the majority of cases taken by the TLS concern accommodation issues. In an appearance before that Committee in July, TLS Solicitor Christopher McCann called for the urgent implementation of the recommendations of the Expert Group Report on Traveller Accommodation.
Traveller Legal Service Solicitor Christopher McCann commented today:
“Housing for All cannot live up to its name in the absence of an urgent overhaul of the current model for the delivery of Traveller accommodation, as recommended by the Expert Group Report on Traveller Accommodation. The housing plan contains a commitment to prioritise the implementation of some of the recommendations of the Expert Group. However, more than two years after the Expert Group published its recommendations, the plan contains no timeframe the implementation of those recommendations.
Legislation is urgently needed to reform the draconian powers of Local Authorities and An Garda Síochána to evict Traveller’s living on the roadside; to provide for minimum standards for Traveller accommodation; and to remove the power of elected members to vote down proposals for the delivery of Traveller accommodation.”
FLAC urges the Government to integrate human rights and equality standards into the implementation the plan as required by the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty.
Notes to Editor
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice.
FLAC provides legal representation in a small number of cases in the public interest. In 2020, housing remained the area of law in which FLAC most often provides legal representation.
Since early 2020, FLAC has operated a dedicated a Traveller Legal Service (“the TLS”), supported by The Community Foundation of Ireland and in cooperation with a Steering Group of representatives from all of the national Traveller organisations. The purpose of the TLS is to address and highlight the unmet legal need of the Traveller community, through legal representation and the provision of legal training and assistance to Traveller advocates.
FLAC engages in policy work in areas of law that most impact on disadvantaged groups and including consumer credit, personal debt, social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
FLAC’s written submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community on the subject of Access to housing and accommodation, including Traveller-specific accommodation is available at: https://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-submission-to-the-joint-committee-on-key-issu/
FLAC’s Opening Statement to that Committee is available at: https://www.flac.ie/publications/opening-statement-to-joint-committee-on-key-issues/
Article 11.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.”
Section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act imposes an obligation on all public bodies performing their function to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect human rights.
In its Concluding Observations on Ireland published on 12 December 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination stated as follows:
“The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Analyse the impact of the current housing crisis on Travellers and Roma and other ethnic minority groups and take effective measures to address it;
(b) Improve access to social housing by, Travellers, Roma, people of African descent and migrants;
(c) Take effective measures to address any discrimination against Travellers and Roma in the private rental sector;
(d) Repeal the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002 and place moratorium on evictions of Traveller accommodations;
(e) Increase the budget earmarked for Traveller accommodation to the levels before the financial crisis and ensure that all of the allocated budget is fully and effectively spent.”