Tuesday, 14 May 2019
An Bille um an gCúigiú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (An Ceart chun Teaghaise) 2016: An Dara Céim [Comhaltaí Príobháideacha] - Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]
I am proud to stand here this evening and support this Bill. The Bill is intended to provide all citizens with a constitutional right to adequate, secure and affordable housing and to give effect to the decision by 80% of participants in the Constitutional Convention that such a right should be enshrined in Bunreacht na hÉireann. Providing for the constitutional right to a home will oblige the State to make reasonable provision to vindicate that right through its policies and actions.
This is not a novel idea. More than 80 countries around the world provide for the right to a home in their constitutions and providing for such a right in Ireland is a position supported by the United Nations special rapporteur for adequate housing. It is the right thing to do. That is why we in Sinn Féin are moving this Bill this evening and calling on every Deputy here, including Government Deputies, to support it. We are in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis in this State. It is a crisis that is out of control and which worsens with every passing day. We all know the statistics, the figures and the numbers. They make for abhorrent reading. The reality, however, is there is really no way to quantify the social and human cost of a crisis that now permeates every part of our society.
Families with good incomes, that would never have faced difficulties in securing a place to live in years gone by, now live in fear that a hike in their rent could push them into homelessness. Young people, as well as couples in their 20s, 30s and into their 40s, unlike their parents before them, have no prospect of ever being able to afford their own home. They are caught in a rent trap. They are paying out-of-control rents and unable to save up for a deposit. Tens of thousands of low and middle-income families, once able to secure council houses or affordable homes, now languish on waiting lists that will never be cleared.
Thousands of children go to bed every night in family hubs and bed and breakfasts deprived of a basic right that should not be a luxury in childhood, that is, somewhere to call home. Behind every outworking of this crisis are real lives and real people. The Government, in the guise of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, just does not get that. They persist in peddling a lie that the Government's housing plan is working when it is patently clear it has not, is not and will not. They do not seem to understand the predicament of tens of thousands of people. In fact, last year the Taoiseach advised young people who wish to buy a home to ask their parents for the money for a deposit.
Let me assure the Dáil that those who can do that are few and far between. This nonsense just goes to show how out of touch with reality the decision makers are. We have people on the Government benches formulating housing policy who simply do not understand or care about the struggles of ordinary people. Perhaps that is because those in government will never struggle. Perhaps it is because those in government believe they represent those who can run to mammy and daddy for a deposit. They really should know that is not an option for the vast majority of people. It is not the world in which most people live and it is ludicrous and preposterous to suggest that. Coupled with that is an ideological opposition on the part those in government to State intervention in the housing market. That is because it is most unlikely that those in government will ever face the prospect of spending a night in emergency accommodation and perhaps that is the crux of the problem.
The truth is that we can bring the housing crisis under control. We can build homes and we can house every citizen in this State. That will only be possible, however, if there is a will to do so at every level and that has to start at the top. We need a change of direction and a change of policy. We need bold and urgent action. We need to double investment in social and affordable housing to deliver homes. We need to introduce a temporary tax relief for renters, alongside an emergency rent freeze for three years. We also need to move now to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution. Real courage, real vision and real leadership are called for. It is time to call a halt to inaction. That is why I urge all Deputies, from all parties and none, to support the Bill.