Housing Commission divided on referendum wording

Housing Commission divided on referendum wording

The Housing Commission has failed to reach a consensus on a proposed referendum on housing, with the issue to be examined further by a new inter-departmental group.

Housing minister Darragh O’Brien yesterday published a number of reports prepared by the Housing Commission, which was established in 2021 to examine Ireland’s housing system and make recommendations to shape long-term policy.

The majority report proposes the insertion of a new Article 40A of the Constitution, stating:

  1. “The State recognises that having a home is of fundamental importance to quality of life and that access to adequate housing, by facilitating the development of family, social and community relationships, promotes the common good.
  2. “The State therefore guarantees to every citizen a right of access to adequate housing and pledges, as far as practicable, by its laws to protect and vindicate that right.”

However, a minority report argues that “no constitutional barrier exists to the government taking the steps needed to address the housing crisis” and questions the need for a referendum at all.

It nonetheless suggests an alternative constitutional amendment, inserting the following text at the end of the existing Article 45:

  1. “The State shall direct its social policy towards ensuring adequate affordable housing for every citizen, as part of a national housing policy that meets the needs of its citizens.
  2. “In furtherance of such obligation, the State shall take legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive implementation of such a housing policy.
  3. “Notwithstanding the provisions of the preamble to this Article, compliance with the requirements of paragraphs 5(i) and 5(ii) shall be cognisable by the Courts established by Article 34 of this Constitution.”

The government said it will convene an inter-departmental group to develop policy recommendations on the foot of the Commission’s work, and the advice of the Attorney General will also be sought.

Mr O’Brien said: “”There is much more work to be done and the work published today will contribute to a robust and informed policy debate and will certainly inform the direction of housing strategy into the future.”

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