Government rebuts UN assertion that 'housing in Ireland is moderately unaffordable'

Government rebuts UN assertion that 'housing in Ireland is moderately unaffordable'

The Government has issued a lengthy rebuttal to the United Nations in response to criticism of the country's housing policies earlier this year.

It includes staunch defences of the Rebuilding Ireland housing strategy and initiatives such as the Vacant Sites Levy and the Rent Pressure Zones, and claims that the saga surrounding the Leeside Apartment Complex is "a demonstration of the State's efforts to provide social housing".

The letter was issued in response to a letter from UN Rapporteur on housing, Leilani Farha, which, in March, asserted that "housing in Ireland is moderately unaffordable" and said the situation was being made worse by land hoarding. It said that the Government had facilitated housing financing through "preferential tax laws and weak tenant protections".

"Landlords have become faceless corporations wreaking havoc with tenants," Ms Farha wrote in the letter.

In a 16-page rebuttal, the Government has detailed its efforts to resolve the housing crisis, including the Rebuilding Ireland programme. It criticised the UN report for not using the most up-to-date figures on activity in 2018.

"Ireland would like to reaffirm that it takes very seriously the issues and concerns raised in the Communication. The provision of housing, whether it be social, affordable or private housing, and the support of households who are experiencing homelessness is and will continue to be a critical priority for the Irish Government," the response said.

The Government rejected the assertion that its housing policies are "contrary to international human rights obligations" and said that Ireland is "very conscious" of its obligations under International Human Rights Law.

The UN Communication raises the issue of affordability, suggesting that the Housing Agency defines “housing in Ireland as moderately unaffordable with Dublin being described as seriously unaffordable”.

The Government reply points to an ESRI report in 2019 which "does not support a contention that housing is universally unaffordable".

The Government does acknowledge that "upward pressure persists" in the private rental market but rejects suggestions that its policy decision-making is "investor-centric".

The Leeside Apartment Complex
The Leeside Apartment Complex

The letter points to the Leeside Apartment Complex saga in Cork as an example of its tenant focus.

Then-owners Lugus Capital issued eviction notices to 13 tenants in the block in 2017 citing fire safety and renovations. The 78-unit apartment block was since bought by Cork City Council and Clúid, with residents refusing to accept the eviction notice. Their protest reached the Dáil and attracted national media attention.

In its reply to the UN, the Government describes the saga as "a demonstration of the State's efforts to provide social housing". It makes no reference to the protests of the residents.

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