Ireland’s social housing in breach of European law

Ireland has been found to be in violation of European laws because of the “substandard quality” of much of our social housing.

The European Committee of Social Rights, in a decision published today, found that “a significant stock of local authority housing is of substandard quality”.

Ireland is, therefore, in breach of Article 16 of the European social charter.

The charter is a legally binding counterpart of the European Convention on Human Rights and is monitored and implemented by the committee.

In July 2014, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) brought a complaint to the European committee against Ireland over alleged breaches of the charter linked to local authority housing.

These breaches related to sewage leaks, dampness, and mould.

FIDH, provided a range of evidence to the committee showing “that a number of local authority tenants reside in poor housing conditions amounting to housing that is inadequate in nature”, according to a summary of the decision.

This evidence came from tenants, architects, and engineers. There were “problems with mould, dampness, sewage invasions”.

According to the decision, some of the conditions in the social housing, raise “serious” concerns.

“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, in particular, the high number of residents in certain estates in Dublin complaining of sewage invasions,” reads the decision.

The complaint against the Government’s social housing stock was not, however, limited to just the conditions of the properties.

“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 a number of local authority tenants remain living in substandard housing conditions.

“The Government has 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,” reads the decision.

The complainant organisation, FIDH, also referred to the lack of progress in relation to the regeneration and building of more social housing.

“As a result of the economic crisis, the original regeneration programmes were delayed or halted, with a deterioration of conditions in some cases. New regeneration programmes have subsequently been developed, however not all of these have been completed to date,” state the findings.

The FIDH alleges that Ireland was in violation of four other articles in the charter, but the European Committee of Social Rights only found one breach out of five.

Ireland is now obliged to “take steps” to address this violation and a meeting will be held with a view to “adopting a formal resolution to the Irish authorities” based on the findings.

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