Housing discrimination a ‘crisis within a crisis’

Black people, Travellers, lone parents, people with disabilities, and young males are suffering blatant discrimination in accessing housing.

They face a battle to get accommodation, have to put up with lower standards of accommodation, and are disproportionately represented among the homeless.

Their experiences compare poorly to other people in society even when income levels are the same and they remain consistently bad even when housing is more plentiful and rents are lower.

That is despite equality legislation outlawing discrimination against people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, age, family status, disability and other grounds.

An update to the law in 2015 added a specific prohibition on discriminating in the housing market against people in receipt of housing payments through the welfare system but that law does not appear to have made much of a difference.

A report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) compiled the views and housing conditions of 15,000 people who had looked for accommodation during the previous two years.

It found that Travellers were nine times more likely than other white Irish people to feel discriminated against in accessing housing while black people were five times more likely. Africans made up 4% of homeless people even though they made up less than 0.5% of the total population.

Age was also a factor with the 18-24 age group five and a half times more likely to feel discriminated against than the over 65 age group, with young males having a particularly hard time.

People with disabilities were three and a half times more likely to experience discrimination than those without disabilities and 27% of the homeless population reported having a physical or mental disability.

Lone parents were nearly five times more likely to suffer discrimination and 60% of homeless families were lone parent families.

Recipients of housing payments were nearly twice as likely as others in private rented accommodation to be living in poor quality housing, in problematic neighbourhoods, and/or in overcrowded conditions.

Emily Logan, IHREC chief commissioner, said while there was an acknowledged crisis in housing, the findings revealed a “crisis within a crisis” for some groups in society. Ms Logan said IHREC’s Know Your Rights service dealt with almost 200 queries about housing last year but she believed there was serious under-reporting of problems. “The groups of people we are talking about are the least likely to have the capacity to bring complaints. They’re busy just trying to survive,” she said.

She said the law was robust but there was clearly an issue with compliance.

There is enough legislation and policy for people to have a better experience than this report suggests.

Dr Helen Russell of the ESRI said social housing provision had collapsed, from making up 18% of the national housing stock in the 1960s to just 9% now. “Reversing the steep decline in the social housing stock over recent decades is essential for tackling inequalities.”


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