Seanad debates

Friday, 4 June 2021

9:30 am

Photo of Pauline O'ReillyPauline O'Reilly (Green Party)

I welcome the Minister of State. The Green Party believes access to adequate, secure, affordable and environmentally sound housing is a basic human right. This right should be set out in our Constitution. We call on the Government to move urgently to bring forward a referendum to amend the Constitution to include this right to housing. This is what is stated in Green Party policy and we decided to go into government last year because we want to put it in our Constitution. We believe in stepping up to the mark and putting our money where our mouth is. That is what we have been doing.

Record amounts of funding are going into housing. The Minister has faced a difficulty with Covid.Despite that, as one of my colleagues said, we have had over 16 hours of debate on the Affordable Housing Bill. This is before it even goes to the Dáil. We have had pre-legislative scrutiny of the Affordable Housing Bill. There are really radical things in that Bill, which will transform housing in this country. For the first time ever, we will have cost-rental on a legislative footing. The Green Party has looked to follow this Vienna model of cost-rental for decades.

Some 38% of countries around the world have a right to housing in their constitutions. This is Ireland and this Government moving to where we should be. Notwithstanding some of the comments on different decisions by the courts, the key issue is to have one right to housing in the Constitution, not a complementary or even competing right, in order to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We need to have both a right to ownership and a right to housing in the Constitution.

This is also about the type of housing we are looking at. It is about the right to housing, as Senator Boyhan said during one of our debates, but it is also about the right to homes and what they should look like. Homes have to be comfortable. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to housing, but it is about the type of housing as well. We need to ensure it is not just about paying a mortgage but being able to afford to eat in that home. What type of community is the home in? It needs to be intergenerational, diverse, inclusive and, fundamentally, one that is sustainable throughout the generations. That means all the amenities should be around the home. The most environmentally friendly thing to do is to ensure everything is not far away from our homes. In Galway, people travel from one side of the city, where all the housing is, to the other side where all the jobs are. We have to stop that approach to housing and that is what this Government is doing.

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