Poor local authority housing ‘a breach of human rights’

The appalling conditions in which many low-income families in Ireland live breaches their human rights, according to a number of organisations which have forwarded evidence to European Committee of Social Rights in Strasbourg.

The international committee will have a first discussion on the evidence before them today that shows local authority houses with dampness, mould, fungal contamination and sewage problems.

They will also be presented with medical evidence showing poor conditions are affecting the health of those living there, especially the children and most vulnerable.

The evidence was gathered from tenants in 20 areas and “exposes the appalling conditions in which some of the 130,000, Irish, low-income households (almost 355,000 people) live in local authority estates across the country.

“These include substandard housing and poor community facilities which appear to be inconsistent with international and European housing standards of adequacy, suitability and habitability of a house or a shelter,” according to the complaint lodged.

It includes figures to show that crime and anti-social behaviour are commonplace in areas where most of the housing is provided by the local authority.

They will also make the point that there is no organisation to represent local authority tenants’ interests in a structured way that can ensure they get a proper response to their issues.

A number of Irish organisations are responsible for putting together the evidence as part of a wider strategy to address substandard conditions in local authority housing estates.

The Free Legal Advice Centres’ Public Interest Law Alliance has worked with the International Federation for Human Rights to put the complaint before the Committee, part of the Council of Europe — a separate organisation from the EU.

The 15-member, international social rights committee judges whether states are conforming in law and in practice with the European Social Charter.

The federation — known by its French acronym FIDH — says that the evidence shows the state is in clear breach of its responsibilities to local authority tenants.

“The right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other rights and the appropriate development of families and children.

“Also, local authority housing plays a fundamental societal role in providing housing to low income families and individuals” said FIDH president Karim Lahidji. “It is unacceptable that those who live in social housing accommodation are not adequately protected against violation of this right. These tenants are often among the most vulnerable in society and those who need the most to be protected against poverty and social exclusion.”

The committee will consider whether to admit the complaint for a full, formal investigation.


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