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'Constitution blocked me in bid to supply homes' - Kelly


Minister Alan Kelly during his visit to the modular homes in Ballymun, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Minister Alan Kelly during his visit to the modular homes in Ballymun, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Minister Alan Kelly during his visit to the modular homes in Ballymun, Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Outgoing Environment Minister Alan Kelly has claimed that provisions in the Constitution around property rights resulted in attempts to solve the housing and homeless crisis being "repeatedly blocked".

Efforts to introduce protections for tenants and measures to compel owners of prime sites to develop housing were blocked by property rights protected under Article 43 of the Constitution, he claimed.

His comments were made at a forum on Housing and Homelessness held at the Department of the Environment. Among the attendees were opposition politicians and agencies involved in delivering housing and homeless services, including Nama, the Construction Industry Federation and Simon Communities.

Mr Kelly said there was a need to "find solutions" to the crisis on a cross-party basis, and that the problem would take time to solve. However, there was a need to debate the rights of property owners as set out in the Constitution.

"From the time it is taking to introduce the vacant site levy in order to tackle land hoarding, to protecting tenants from eviction in circumstances where their landlord wishes to sell the property, and many other issues, I was repeatedly blocked from making provision for what I believed was the common good by the strength by which property rights are protected under Article 43 of the Constitution," he said.

"I believe that we need to honestly re-examine the balance between the protected and legitimate property rights of individuals, as property owners, and the wider needs and common good of society, including housing needs.

"As a society, we need to reflect on the desired impact of the Constitution here.

"I believe that addressing these issues raises politically and socially important issues which will have to be debated over the coming years."

The Constitution says that the State "guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to bequeath and inherit property", but goes on to state that it may "delimit the law with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good".

But Aideen Hayden, chair of Threshold, said the rental sector was in dire need of reform, given that one in five people currently rented their home.

"I am scandalised that we cannot get legal change," she said. "If there are constitutional impediments to rent certainty or receiverships, then bring the legislation through and let the courts throw it out and then go to the people."

Meanwhile, families are expected to move into the first 22 modular homes located at Poppintree in Ballymun over the next two weeks.

The homes were expected to be completed before Christmas, but were delayed due to local opposition.

Mr Kelly defended the delay, describing the delivery of homes as "the quickest turnaround in the history of the State".

"There was a learning process through Dublin City Council as part of this," he said.

"It was the first time it was ever done. That learning process has been brought through for the second procurement, which has a lot more people involved, I understand."

Work is expected to begin on 130 more modular homes this month, while development on the remaining 300 across Dublin is due to begin later in the year. The De Paul housing charity said they welcomed the units, and would help the families seek more permanent accommodation.

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