Articles tagged with: Homelessness and Housing

Buying a House – Is the Buyer Protected? Some Reflections from a Legal Perspective

on Thursday, 15 December 2011. Posted in Issue 68 After the Housing Bubble, Housing Policy, Economics


Consumer law covers most of the products we buy today. We presume that what we buy is regulated by certain minimum standards. Furniture must meet some minimum health and safety requirements. Electrical goods must work, must not be a danger to the consumer, and must last a minimum period. Cars must meet mechanical, electrical, design and other minimum standards. Several laws and regulations govern the manufacture, transport and sale of goods. Most of the time, the goods we purchase ‘work’: the chair does not collapse, the kettle boils, and the car stays on the road. However, if faults are discovered, purchasers can, and do, return to the shop with the defective goods and so it is not unusual for kettles, shoes, and even cars to be exchanged.


Still Homeless

on Wednesday, 14 December 2011. Posted in Issue 68 After the Housing Bubble, Poverty & Inequality, Housing Policy

It was to have been the year of hope for homeless people. By the beginning of 2011, we should have been entering a new phase in the provision of services for those who are, for whatever reason, out of home. This was to have been the case, because the end of 2010 had been set as the target date for achieving two highly significant developments in relation to services for homeless people – one was the elimination of the need for any person to sleep rough, and the other was the elimination of the need for any person to remain long-term (that is, for more than six months) in an emergency homeless facility. Both these developments had been set out as key objectives in The Way Home, the five-year official strategy on homelessness, published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in 2008.1


Social Vulnerability in a Divided Housing System

on Wednesday, 14 December 2011. Posted in Issue 68 After the Housing Bubble, Poverty & Inequality, Housing Policy

Ireland’s economic crisis and the central problems in the housing system that played a large part in precipitating that crisis should make it clear that there is an urgent need for new ways of thinking about housing. The model that became dominant during the economic boom was one of market idolatry and the relentless commodification of housing, such that it became primarily an investment vehicle for realising exchange values, often from no productive activity whatsoever.


Working Notes Issue 68 Editorial

on Wednesday, 14 December 2011. Posted in Issue 68 After the Housing Bubble

pdf iconWorking Notes: Issue 68 Editorial

The Housing Policy Statement, issued by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in June 2011, declared that the ‘overall strategic objective’ of the Coalition Government’s housing policy would be ‘to enable all households access good quality housing appropriate to household circumstances and in their particular community of choice’. In reality, this is a re-statement, an updated wording, of the long-standing official aim of Irish housing policy; its most immediate predecessor was worded thus: ‘to enable every household to have available an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment and as far as possible at the tenure of its choice’.

We are now all too aware of how readily the core objective of official housing policy was lost sight of during the housing boom, and of how the interests of investors, developers and land-owners, and the concern to maximise returns from housing-related taxes and charges, took priority over protecting and promoting the right of all citizens to have access to adequate housing.

The critical issue now is whether the newly restated ‘overall objective’ of housing policy will actually be implemented. Will it be allowed to influence and shape all Government actions which impact on housing, including planning laws and regulations; taxation policies affecting investors, developers and home owners; the operation of NAMA; the State’s own role in providing or subsidising social housing? In the face of the demands of vested interests, will those responsible for implementing the housing policy be able to fulfil the promise contained in the Statement that, in the future, policy ‘will neither force nor entice people through fiscal or other stimuli to treat housing as a commodity and a means of wealth creation’?

Three of the articles in this issue of Working Notes highlight some of the consequences of failures of past, and current, housing policy in Ireland.

In the opening article, Michael Punch considers the ‘housing vulnerability’ that is now the experience of tens of thousands of households in Ireland, instancing the mortgage debt crisis, the dramatic rise in the number of households on the waiting lists for social housing, and the precarious situation of the many households on low incomes in poor- quality private rented accommodation.

Peter McVerry SJ writes about the increase in the overall number of people becoming homeless and the rise in the number unable to access even emergency accommodation. He points out that the 2008 Homeless Strategy promised a new era for services for homeless people, with 2010 set as the target date for achieving two key objectives, namely, an end to the need for any person to sleep rough or to remain in emergency shelter for longer than six months. He attributes the failure to achieve these targets to the decision to rely on the private sector to provide accommodation for people moving out of homelessness, rather than the direct provision of social housing through local authorities and voluntary housing bodies.

Patrick Hume SJ draws attention to the very limited consumer protection offered to house buyers in Ireland, and argues that in many respects the classic defence of ‘let the buyer beware’ continues to prevail in the property market. He notes the extremely inadequate enforcement system in regard to the State’s own building regulations, and urges action to strenghten this system and address the many other deficits in protection for home buyers.

In the final article in this issue, Eugene Quinn reminds us that 2011 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. He notes that critics of the Convention claim that it fails to meet many of the demands now being placed on it as a result of the changing and increasingly complex nature of displacement, but he argues that its deficiencies do not mean it is irrelevant or unworkable, though it does require constant review. The Convention, he says, has enabled millions to find refuge over the past sixty years, and it provides a solid foundation on which to build supplementary systems of protection for those who fall outside its remit.



Building Sustainable Communities – The Role of Housing Policy

on Wednesday, 02 July 2008. Posted in Issue 58 Time for Justice?

Peter McVerry SJ
July, 2008

pdf Building Sustainable Communities – The Role of Housing Policy


The Barriers to Community


Barriers to community?
© D. Speirs

Building sustainable communities is extremely difficult in Ireland today. In many urban areas, at least, the sense of community has almost disappeared.

There are several reasons why this is so:

First, increased mobility means that many people expect to move from one community to another and so may have fewer bonds with the community in which they currently live. People move job, and therefore move home, much more often than their parents did. Many others see a first home as simply ‘getting a foot on the property ladder’ and when they are able to purchase a bigger house, or a house nearer to their work, they will uproot themselves and move. 

Homes not Hostels: Rethinking Homeless Policy

on Tuesday, 13 November 2007. Posted in Issue 56 The Anniversary Issue

Peter McVerry SJ, Executive Director of the Peter McVerry Trust, which provides accommodation and care for homeless young people
Eoin Carroll, Advocacy and Social Policy Research Officer with the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice

November 2007


Homeless people dream of a key to their own front door

pdf Homes not Hostels: Rethinking Homeless Policy



Most homeless people simply want a place they can call home. Some need varying levels of support to enable them to keep a home. But a key to their own front door is the symbol of the desires of homeless people.

Housing and Homelessness

on Thursday, 26 April 2007. Posted in Issue 55 The Election Issue, 2007

May 2007

pdf Housing and Homelessness 61.12 Kb

If, as predicted, the number of new houses built during 2007 shows a decline on the 2006 figure, this will represent a notable break with the significant upward trend in housing construction that has been such a feature of the past decade. Whereas 26,500 houses and apartments were built in 1995, the number rose to 49,812 in 2000 and to 93,419 in 2006. In other words, housing output in 2006 was more than 250 per cent higher than in 1995.

Still Waiting for Housing

on Friday, 21 April 2006. Posted in Issue 52 Mental Illness in Irish Prisons: A Solitary Experience?, 2006

Peter McVerry SJ
April 2006


Housing Need

The findings of the Local Authority Assessments of Social Housing Needs, carried out in March 2005, were released by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in December 2005.1

The figures show a reduction in housing waiting lists of 9.8% from the previous assessments in 2002 (Table 1).2

Planning for People Observations on NESC Chapter 5

on Monday, 13 June 2005. Posted in Issue 50 Housing the New Ireland, 2005

Michael J. Bannon
June 2005
At the close of the 20th century, a mere five years ago, there was delight and optimism in planning and environmentally informed
circles that Ireland was for the first time ever about to have a hierarchically integrated system of interrelated plans covering the country and operating at every level. Preparation of the National Spatial Strategy was well advanced. The provided a statutory basis for the preparation and implementation of Regional Planning Guidelines. The Act also modernised the\'Development Plan\' process and established procedures for making and implementing Local Area Plans. This new approach to planning was introduced against the continuing national partnership approach, most recently articulated in .

Aspects of Catholic Social Teaching on Housing

on Monday, 13 June 2005. Posted in Issue 50 Housing the New Ireland, 2005

Cathy Molloy
June 2005
What Have You Done to your Homeless Brother?
The United Nations proclaimed 1987 the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless and to coincide with that time Pope John Paul II asked that the Church undertake its own reflection on the problem of housing. The result was What Have You Done to your Homeless Brother? a document of the Pontifical \'Justice and Peace\' Commission, presented on 27 December 1987 by its President, Roger Cardinal Etchegaray.1 This short article will focus mainly on some of the points from that document.

Housing the New Ireland Comment on the NESC Report

on Monday, 13 June 2005. Posted in Issue 50 Housing the New Ireland, 2005

June 2005

Margaret Burns*

In spring 2004, Focus Ireland, the voluntary organisation dealing with homelessness, placed a series of poster advertisements around Dublin city. These were designed to look rather like the plaques which are put on buildings to indicate that a noted artist, political figure or other famous person once lived there. A typical Focus Ireland \'plaque\' read: \'Paul Ryan, Homeless Person, Lived Here, August 2003\'. Posted alongside doorways, bridges and other places that might provide minimal shelter, they were a graphic reminder of the continuing problem of homelessness in the midst of a vibrant and clearly prosperous city. On the evening I first saw one of these posters, I turned on the radio and encountered a very different advertisement: this one announced a Holiday Home Fair for the latest location to become \'the\' destination for Irish people wanting to buy that second home abroad. The two advertisements pointedly illustrated the widening gap in the experience of different groups of people in Ireland with regard to housing (and income and wealth) which has been such a feature of this society over the past decade.


on Saturday, 03 July 2004. Posted in Issue 48 The Constitution: Private Property and the Common Good, 2004

June 2004

Dear Reader,

In this issue of Working Notes we examine the report on Private Property of the All- Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution Property, published in April 2004. The Report followed a request from the Taoiseach in February 2000 to “consider the present constitutional provisions in respect of property rights and specifically the necessity for up-dating those provisions which pertain to planning controls and infrastructural development”.

In the light of the recent constitutional amendment on citizenship it is interesting to look at the process by which the constitutional provisions on Private Property were reviewed. Following wide consultation, in which the Committee received 140 written submissions from individuals, groups and organizations and subsequently held oral hearings, a comprehensive 133 page report and a further 300 pages in appendices were compiled. The Report includes a detailed review of the constitutional provisions on private property and existing case law, the property market and the planning system, which enabled well-founded conclusions and clear recommendations to be made.

In contrast there was no public consultation prior to proposing the recent change to the Constitution in respect of the right to citizenship. It was not deemed necessary that the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution should consider the issue. Consequently, the debate was held in the absence of a thorough analysis. The result was that much information was at the level of anecdote and general impression; the failure of the Government to produce comprehensive research findings hindered a full and balanced assessment of the issues and the consideration of a range of possible policy responses.

The Constitution represents a privileged source and statement of values in Ireland. I believe that, in bypassing established procedures that ensure full public consultation and thorough analysis of issues prior to constitutional change, the Government did a disservice to all people who reside on this island.

Eugene Quinn
Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice

Community Development in the Age of the Celtic Tiger

on Sunday, 06 July 2003. Posted in Issue 37 Community Development in the Age of the Celtic Tiger, 2000

Bill Toner, SJ

May 2000


Some dreadful planning decisions and environmental blunders were made in Irish cities between the 1930s and the end of the 1960s. It is hard to imagine them taking place today. For instance, there is no possibility that the authorities in Northern Ireland would today be allowed to drive a motorway through the middle of Belfast, effectively cutting it in two. No local authority would now be allowed to design an area like Drimnagh in Dublin, a development of over 5,000 houses built in the thirties without a single green space. The destruction of part of Georgian Dublin\'s Fitzwilliam Street, to build new offices for the E.S.B., could not happen today.

A Rising Tide - but no boats to lift

Written by Peter McVerry SJ on Thursday, 10 April 2003. Posted in Issue 44 Ireland: Facing up to a Multicultural Future?, 2002

Homelessness revisited


Much has been written over the years about the problem of homelessness.  The causes of homelessness have been analysed and solutions proposed.   Working Notes has included articles on the issue of homelessness in the recent past.  In this article, I do not wish to repeat what has already been written but to look at the effects of the last five years of economic prosperity on the numbers of homeless people and on their prospects of escaping from homelessness in the future.

The Residential Tenancies Bill 2003: A Tentative First Step

on Tuesday, 23 September 2003. Posted in Issue 46 The Prisons and the Gardai: A Case for Independent Review, 2003

September 2003

Seamus Murphy SJ is a lecturer at the Milltown Institute

After many decades of neglect, the government is proposing a major reform of the law governing landlord-tenant relations in residential premises.  The proposals are contained in the Residential Tenancies Bill 2003 (hereafter referred to as ‘the bill’)(i).    As is well known in informed circles, but less so to the general public, the Irish tenant’s lack of rights and legal protection is embarrassing to the point of being shameful when compared to such tenants’ status in other EU jurisdictions.  The government’s bill comes not a moment too soon.

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The Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Report (2014-2020) sets out a realistic vision for the future of children and young people in Ireland. This vision is for ‘Ireland to be one of the best small countries in the world in which to grow up and raise a family, and where the rights of all children and young people are respected, protected and fulfilled; where their voices are heard and where they are supported to realise their maximum potential now and in the future’. Read full editorial

Working Notes is a journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The journal focuses on social, economic and theological analysis of Irish society. It has been produced since 1987.