‘Emergency action’ needed to tackle housing deficit

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien TD has published The Housing Commission’s report, alongside two reports on proposed wording for a referendum on housing.

The Housing Commission states that it is “cognisant of several pressing issues currently affecting housing in Ireland, such as high inflation in the construction industry, delays in the planning system and acute pressures on the availability of accommodation”.

Within The Housing Commission’s report, there are 83 recommendations outlined that focus on shaping housing policy into the future.


The major challenge identified by the Commission is Ireland’s housing deficit. To tackle this, the report states: “It is critical that this housing deficit is addressed through emergency action.”

Key recommendations include implementing measures to end homelessness, recognising and dealing with Ireland’s housing deficit, and establishing a housing delivery oversight executive in legislation as a decision-making body – something that Minister O’Brien has already ruled out.

The Commission’s report also suggests supporting high-yield Housing Delivery Zones, a Central Construction Supply Unit, and diverse sources for finance, such as stable public financing and collaborative development of standard house and apartment types, to “drive efficiency, reduce costs and support viability”.

Furthermore, The Housing Commission Report aims to conduct a National Housing Condition survey every five years, reform the housing assistance payment system and rental accommodation scheme and use appropriately targeted equity loan schemes to support first-time buyers to purchase a home.

The report acknowledges that it would be highly beneficial to increase the size of the social and cost-rental housing sectors to 20 per cent of the national housing stock, and also increase capacity in the AHB sector.

Government’s preliminary review of The Housing Commission report suggests around 65 of the recommendations are already advanced or at varying stages of implementation, with some more advanced than others.

Additionally, the review states: “Comprehensive consideration will be given to those remaining to be implemented.

“We need to embrace a different risk and decision-making environment across the administrative system. The legacy of the current system of control must be replaced by a strong focus on outcomes.”

Article 40A constitutional change

The 2020 Programme for Government (PfG) committed to establishing a Commission on Housing to examine issues such as tenure, standards, sustainability and quality-of-life issues in the provision of housing. The PfG also made a commitment to hold “a referendum on housing”.

As such, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage assigned the Commission with the specific task of making a recommendation to the Government on the potential wording for a constitutional amendment on housing. The Commission developed its recommendations and proposed wording of an amendment based on giving effect to that position. However, a second minority report was also published.

In considering the wording for a referendum, the Referendum Subcommittee examined “the right to housing in international human rights law and in the domestic legal systems of several different jurisdictions with a view to informing how a right to housing might operate in Ireland”, including Canada, Finland, India, Portugal, Scotland and South Africa.

Following lengthy consideration, the Commission has proposed potential wording for a referendum on housing which includes an explicit recognition by the State of the fundamental importance of having a home to both individuals and society; and a specific guarantee for access to housing. The proposed wording has been suggested as an amendment to Article 40:

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.

The first sub-article serves to acknowledge and affirm the fundamental importance of having a home to one’s quality of life. It also recognises that access to adequate housing promotes the common good by facilitating the development of family, social and community relationships.

The second sub-article provides for a constitutional guarantee of a right of access to adequate housing. This commits the State to guaranteeing access to adequate housing to all citizens. It is intended to place an obligation on the State to secure the conditions in which access to adequate housing can be realised.

Suggesting that several questions were left unaddressed in the report, commissioners Ronan Lyons and Michael O’Flynn produced a minority report and stated that the “appropriate remedies to address it ought to be systemic, rather than founded on individual rights”.

Furthermore, the minority report suggests that an amendment of Article 45 of the Constitution is also necessary, and states there should be an “obligation on the state” to view housing as a “societal problem” rather than an “individually enforceable right”.

The Commission’s reports will be submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for its consideration. An inter-departmental group will also be convened to develop policy recommendations for Government on foot of the Commission’s work. The advice of the Attorney General will also be sought before recommendations are brought to Government.


Commenting on the report, Minister O’Brien said: “The publication of these reports is the culmination of two years of work by the members of the Commission and I thank them most sincerely for this work.

“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.”

Contrastingly, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin TD said the Government are “taking people for fools” with the housing progress report and stated that it had no detail on progress from January to March on the delivery of Government housing programmes.

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