Housing and homelessness dominates caseload at Community Law & Mediation

Housing and homelessness dominates caseload at Community Law & Mediation

Rose Wall

Housing problems made up more than four in 10 cases dealt with by Community Law & Mediation (CLM) last year as the Irish housing and cost-of-living crises intensified.

The independent community law centre and charity, located in Dublin and Limerick, assisted nearly 5,000 people last year through its free legal advice, advocacy, mediation and education services, according to its latest annual report published today.

In 2022, 43 per cent of its legal advocacy and representation work related to housing problems and homelessness.

CLM used the launch of the report to today call on the Irish government to urgently introduce a range of reforms and bring clarity on the status of the referendum on housing.

Rose Wall, CLM CEO, said: “Last year, our community law centres assisted with particularly acute emergency cases.

“A young woman and her newborn baby who were refused emergency accommodation and had to stay in a caravan with no running water or electricity. A family who had medical priority status, yet were living in overcrowded, rat-infested, damp and mouldy accommodation. Families sleeping in their cars. Problems that are getting increasingly desperate and increasingly difficult to resolve.

“There are steps that can be taken at local authority level to make it easier and fairer for people who find themselves homeless or facing homelessness.

“These include ensuring consistency across all local authorities in the treatment of applications for emergency accommodation; providing training for housing officers within local authorities to ensure they are aware of the State’s legal obligations in relation to housing and homelessness; and addressing the vacancy and dereliction that we see all around us.”

She continued: “Ultimately, people who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness need meaningful protection in our constitution.

“A constitutional right to adequate housing, while not an immediate fix, would enable the State to adopt progressive housing policies that protect housing not only as a commodity, but as a basic human right. A constitutional right to housing, which includes a right to shelter, could provide a meaningful floor of protection to those most vulnerable and marginalised in society.

“Additionally, we hope that the report of the civil legal aid review group, due to be published before this end of this year, provides for legal advice and representation in housing-related matters such as social housing supports, emergency accommodation and disputes before quasi-judicial bodies, including the Residential Tenancies Board and the Workplace Relations Commission.”

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