The European Committee of Social Rights has published its decision finding Ireland in violation of Article 16 of the Revised Social Charter by failing to provide adequate conditions for families living in local authority housing. Article 16 protects the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. This includes the right to provision of family housing by the State.
The decision is a result of a collective complaint lodged in 2014 against Ireland by international human rights organisation, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), with the support of affiliate member FLAC (the Free legal Adive Centres) and facilitated by PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance). The Complaint was brought together over five years by the Community Action Network, the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at national University Galway, Ballymun Community Law Centre, Dr. Rory Hearne NUI Maynooth and the Irish Traveller Movement.
Evidence was gathered from 20 communities on poor housing conditions, overcrowding and dampness, and inadequate estate management. The complaint alleged that such standards violates the Revised European Social Charter, particularly the rights of families to social, legal and economic protection, the right to health and the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion. It is estimated that close to 355,000 people (130,000) households live in local authority housing around Ireland.
The Committee stated that the right to housing is of central importance to the family, and it permits the exercise of many other rights. To satisfy Article 16, State Parties must promote the provision of an adequate supply of housing for families, take the needs of families into account in housing policies and ensure that existing housing be of an adequate standard and include essential services (such as heating and electricity).
Some of the conditions described regarding sewage invasions, contaminated water, dampness, persistent mould etc., go to the core of adequate housing, raising serious concerns from the perspective of both habitability and access to services, the high number of residents in certain estates in Dublin complaining of sewage invasions (for example, the Dolphin House complex) years after the problems were first identified.
No complete statistics on the condition of local authority housing have been collected since 2002 by the Irish authorities and no national timetable exists for the refurbishment of the local authority housing stock. A significant number of regeneration programmes adopted by the Government for local authority estates in the last decade have not been completed with the effect that many local authority tenants remain living in substandard housing conditions.
The Committee found the Government failed to take sufficient and timely measures to ensure the right to housing of an adequate standard for not an insignificant number of families living in local authority housing and therefore there is a violation of Article 16 of the Charter in this respect.
However, the Committee found the allegations concerning discrimination on the grounds of social origin, health or other status had not been substantiated and there was no violation of Article 11 of the Charter and of Article E in conjunction with Article 11 of the Charter. The available data and information do not reveal either a situation of special or high health risks for families and children living in local authority housing estates, nor any specific lack of measures by the Irish authorities to respond appropriately to the health risks that people living in such estates may incur and there was no violation of Article 17 of the Charter and of Article E in conjunction with Article 17 of the Charter. It also found that there that there was no violation of Article 30 of the Charter and of Article E in conjunction with Article 30.
The decision of the Committee has been transmitted to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers for its examination. The Committee of Ministers is expected to adopt a resolution on the matter in early 2018. In October 2018, the Irish Government will be asked to notify the European Committee of Social Rights of measures taken or planned to rectify housing conditions in the year since the decision was published.
To read the Committees decision click here.
To read the case report by the IHREC click here.