Thirty-Ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2020: First Stage

Tairgim:

Go gceadófar go dtabharfar isteach Bille dá ngairtear Acht chun an Bunreacht a leasú.

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Constitution.

This is the same Bill I introduced to the Dáil in 2017, and at that time it was narrowly defeated. It is worth saying that although Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voted against the Bill at that time, the Green Party supported it. In the new programme for Government, the new Government has committed to introducing a right to housing Bill, so this is the Bill and all it has to do is support it. The Minister can nod if I am correct.

It is important to introduce this Bill to amend the Constitution and include the right to housing. Time and again, when we sought measures to protect the rights of tenants, such as preventing unjust economic evictions and taking over property to house people who are desperately in need, we have been told with these and other housing-related matters that we cannot do it because of the provision on the protection of private property in the Constitution. Frankly, I have never accepted that. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we discovered that things we were told we could not do by the previous Fine Gael Government because they were unconstitutional, such as eviction bans and control of rents to some extent - although not enough - could be done. It suggests some of the legal justifications for not introducing a right to housing or taking measures to ensure housing provision for people in this country and protecting tenants etc. were spurious in the first place.

Nonetheless, it is important that this Bill be introduced when we think of the current efforts by the Government to dismantle the emergency protections for tenants that were introduced at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Today's disgraceful move by the new Government to remove those protections for tenants is being justified by the so-called advice from the Attorney General regarding the ban on evictions and rent increases being unconstitutional because of a constitutional protection of private property. I reject that but just to be sure, let us have the referendum. Let us get it clear in the Constitution that people would have a right to housing and that this is under the definition of the common good; this common good of the right to housing should override protection of private property, particularly when we are talking about the private property of landlords, vulture funds and others who seem to think their wealth is more important than the right to secure and dignified housing for ordinary people.

This Bill seeks to insert after Article 43.2 of the Constitution, which deals with the common good and private property, the following sections:

The State, in particular, recognises the common good as including the right to secure, affordable, dignified housing, appropriate to need, for all the residents of Ireland and shall guarantee this right through its laws, policies and the prioritisation of resources.

and

The State, accordingly, shall delimit the right to private property where it is necessary to ensure the common good and to vindicate the said right to housing for all residents of Ireland.

This is what all the housing charities, non-governmental organisations and anybody concerned with housing have said is necessary. This right to housing is necessary to end the scandal of homelessness and private property being put before the basic human right to a secure and affordable roof over a person's head.

There should be no reason the Government should not assist in getting this legislation through the Houses as quickly as possible so we can have the referendum and let the people decide if the right to housing should be a basic human right in this country.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Tairgim: "Go dtógfar an Bille in am Comhaltaí Príobháideacha."

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.