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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Homelessness campaigner calls for referendum on the right to housing

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy

A homelessness campaigner has called for a referendum on the right to housing.

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, founder of Focus Ireland has called on the Government to follow the advice of the constitutional convention and enshrine the right to a home in the constitution.

“I’m calling on the Government to put this to the people in a referendum,” she told the Macgill Summer School.

She said everyone had the right to a home, adding: “We have played the market with people’s basic human needs. This is nothing short of indecent.”

There are now 90,000 families on the waiting list for social housing, three times the number there were in 1993, she told the gathering.

She said while the current government is attempting to respond to the housing challenges there were “serious gaps” in government strategies, including no policy on the private rented sector, no short-term plan for housing and no ethical basis for housing policy.

The campaigner raised concerns about the repeated cuts to rent supplement warning it was leading to growing homelessness. She said last month Focus Ireland saw 72 newly homeless families seek their help.

“Whole families of four, five, six living in one room in hotel without any facilities to play or to cook. We’ve seen fami living in cars, families giving children to friends and relative so they can sleep rough,” she added.

Sr Stan said there are currently 1,200 children living in emergency accommodation, with over 800 in hotel rooms.

"For these families, the outlook is bleak. There is almost no social housing, and there is a critical shortage of rental accommodation. Even if they can find a place to rent, the level of rent supplement is not enough to make renting affordable for most people on low incomes.”

She said the charity was seeing a sharp rise in people seeking help with mortgage arrears. She warned the Government  must take a firm hand with banks to ensure we do not see an “avalanche” of repossessions in coming years.

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