Today, June 26th, Deputy Broughan will introduce the Thirty-Ninth Amendment to the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2019. The Bill seeks to amend Article 45 of the Constitution, the Directive Principles of Social Policy with the following insertion in Section 5 “The State recognises the common good as including the right to adequate and appropriate housing and shall guarantee that right through its laws, policies and the prioritisation of resources, with particular regard to children.”
I am delighted to have a brief opportunity to speak about this important Bill. It is long overdue. It is probably about 30 or 35 years overdue and it certainly does not go remotely far enough to vindicate tenants’ rights and create a fair rental market in this country but even the small steps in this Bill are welcome as an attempt to begin to remedy the worst deficiencies in tenancy law and to face up to the horrendous circumstances of many tenants.
Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, to report on how many abhaile scheme vouchers had been issued since the introduction of the scheme by county. Abhaile is a free service provided to people in mortgage arrears and “its aim is to help mortgage holders in arrears to find the best solutions and keep them, wherever possible, in their own homes”. Abhaile is administered through MABS, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).
I am delighted to briefly support Solidarity-PBP’s Bill. On 18 January last year, a similar Bill was almost passed by the House, when sadly and unfortunately, the Fianna Fáil Party abstained from the vote which was tied 51:51. I warmly commend Solidarity-PBP for updating and reintroducing this vitally important Bill. I note that student-specific accommodation is mentioned along with several other changes.
On a number of occasions, I have raised with the Minister and the Taoiseach the fact that my constituency of Dublin Bay North has the largest number of people on social housing waiting lists. In September, three families became homeless every day nationally. Week in, week out, I meet families with children who are sofa surfing and living in very overcrowded accommodation. A total of 35,000 people are living in such accommodation. Almost 10,000 more are homeless and living in emergency accommodation, hubs, hotels and guesthouses. There are also people sleeping in their cars or trying to do so as the weather begins to turn. What kind of hope can somebody like me give those families as we approach the Christmas period, particularly people in the offer zone, that the situation will be expedited? Has the Minister any plans to drastically improve the delivery of social housing in Dublin?
I’m delighted to be supporting the #RaiseTheRoof campaign today and commend those involved in organising it. It is about time that we had a huge movement of all those representing everyone affected by the housing and homeless crisis. The emergency has now permeated all sectors of our society (bar the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil pro-landlord sectors obviously) and it spans all generations from homeless children, to students unable to find appropriate rental accommodation, young professionals forced to live at home for longer due to unaffordable rents, to people unable to save for deposits for mortgages, to families whose mortgages are being sold to vulture funds or struggling with arrears or repossession threats, to older people dependent on Rent Supplement alongside their pensions. I commend the unions, ICTU, USI and others who have mobilised for today’s rally.
On Tuesday night, Deputy Broughan voted for the Motion of No Confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy. He said that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should be “banished from Government” for at least a generation for presiding over the growing Housing Crisis and allowing 4,000 children to become homeless. Last week, Deputy Broughan had submitted an oral Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone asking her to report the number of children that have been in emergency homeless accommodation by hubs or hotels and guesthouses for less than 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12, 12 to 24 and for 24 months plus, respectively. This question was transferred to Minister Murphy for reply.
As the Minister is aware, something of the order of 5,000 individuals and families in the Dublin Bay North constituency I represent are on the city council’s housing list and a further 2,500 are on the transfer list. When the Fingal part of our constituency is added – I see the Minister of Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, is in attendance – we have by far the worst housing list in the country, higher than any other county, the whole of Fingal or the whole of south Dublin.
Deputy Broughan is delighted to be supporting the ‘Raise The Roof’ initiative which was launched in Buswells today and is calling for a large public rally at lunchtime at Leinster House on October 3rd. Today’s launch was very well attended and saw representatives from most sectors of Irish society from grassroots housing action groups, unions (including the Union of Students of Ireland), charities, political parties, the National Women’s Council and others. It demonstrated the great interest in addressing the escalating housing crisis which has a devastating human cost (as Niamh Randall, spokesperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland pointed out).
I echo the comments of my colleague, Deputy Boyd Barrett. Three years ago, I met the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, and highlighted my concern at the time at the inappropriate accommodating of homeless children in hotel rooms and bed and breakfasts and at the lack of action by the Government in tackling the crisis. At that time, I also met the Children’s Rights Alliance regarding the inclusion of children experiencing homelessness in its report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. That summer, during the week of 24 to 30 August 2015, there were a shocking 707 homeless families and 1,496 homeless children but by the week of 21 to 27 May 2018, in the most recent figures made available, those numbers had jumped dramatically to 1,724 homeless families with 3,826 homeless children.