Articles tagged with: Homelessness and Housing

Rebuilding Ireland: A Flawed Philosophy - Analysis of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness

on Monday, 16 October 2017. Posted in Issue 80 Rebuilding Ireland: A Flawed Philosophy, 2017

PdfIconRebuilding Ireland: A Flawed Philosophy – Analysis of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness– Analysis of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness

Margaret Burns, P.J. Drudy, Rory Hearne and Peter McVerry SJ

Providing affordable, quality and accessible housing for our people is a priority ... The actions of the New Partnership Government will work to end the housing shortage and homelessness. (Programme for Government, May 2016)

Against a background of deepening public concern about the increasing number of households in Ireland experiencing some form of housing distress, and in particular the marked rise in homelessness, the Programme for a Partnership Government agreed in May 2016 set out a number of specific commitments to address the country’s housing crisis, and promised that the Minister for Housing would issue an ‘Action Plan for Housing’ within 100 days of the formation of the Government.1




Homelessness and Social Housing Policy

on Saturday, 14 October 2017. Posted in Issue 80 Rebuilding Ireland: A Flawed Philosophy, 2017

Homelessness and Social Housing Policy

Peter McVerry SJ, Eoin Carroll and Margaret Burns


The Continuing Rise in Homelessness
The most disturbing aspect of the current housing crisis is, of course, the extent to which individuals and families are experiencing homelessness.

While homelessness has been rising since at least 2013 there has been a particularly marked increase since 2015. As indicated by Table 1 below, the total number of people living in emergency accommodation more than doubled in the period January 2015 to August 2017 (rising from 3,845 to 8,270). The number of families in such accommodation more than tripled (rising from 401 in January 2015 to 1,442 in August 2017), as did the number of children (increasing from 865 to 3,048). One person in three now living in emergency accommodation in Ireland is a child. There has also been a 32 per cent increase in the number of adults on their own in emergency accommodation (up from 2,441 in January 2015 to 3,235 in August 2017).1



A Constitutional Right to Housing - A Tale of Political Sidestepping

on Saturday, 14 October 2017. Posted in Issue 80 Rebuilding Ireland: A Flawed Philosophy, 2017


A Constitutional Right to Housing: A Tale of Political Sidestepping

Jerome Connolly

There is in the Sherlock Holmes canon a particular and often-quoted phrase which comes to mind when scrutinising the housing policies of successive Irish governments over the last two decades. The phrase refers to an incident concerning a dog guarding stables from which a racehorse had been stolen during the night. The curious aspect of this, Holmes remarked, was not that the dog barked but that it did not bark.

The repeated failure of Irish governments to actively address the question of a constitutional right to housing in this country is surely an instance of a dog that did not bark – but should have, loudly and insistently, in the face of the serious and multi-faceted housing crisis which this country has faced over many years and will continue to face for the foreseeable future.

It is not as if the question of inserting a right to housing into the Irish Constitution has been completely ignored in official reports or neglected in the work of academics and of a broad range of NGOs, including church groups; it has not.



on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?


In little more than a decade, the housing system in Ireland has gone from the peak phase of a property boom to a collapse of the market and dramatic falls in both housing output and prices, and now to a situation where house prices are rising, particularly in urban areas, but where we continue to see the unfolding of the consequences of the ‘boom and bust’ in Irish housing – and the failure of public policy evident in both phases.  

This issue of Working Notes draws attention to the significant problems now facing tens of thousands of households in Ireland in terms of housing access, affordability and security.

The most serious indicator of the housing crisis is the increase in homelessness, reflected in the rise in the number of people sleeping rough, and in the number of individuals, and of families with children, having to live in emergency accommodation. Peter McVerry writes: ‘Homelessness is now worse than at any time in recent memory .... Many of the ‘new homeless’ have never been homeless before, and until this current crisis would never for a moment have thought they could become homeless’. 


on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?


Peter McVerry SJ

The Housing Crisis

Homelessness is the most visible, and extreme, consequence of a dysfunctional housing system. And the housing system in Ireland today is certainly dysfunctional; indeed, it could be said to be an example of the perfect storm, with all three of the main housing sectors in crisis at the same time.

In the private housing market, demand greatly exceeds supply leading to an increase in house prices, particularly in the Dublin area, with a consequent increased demand on the private rented sector and increased pressure on the social housing sector.

The Private Rented Sector in Ireland: Time for a National Strategy

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconThe Private Rented Sector in Ireland: Time for a National Strategy

Bob Jordan


In December 2014, in a ‘Chairperson’s Statement’ introducing the 2013 Annual Report of Threshold,1 Senator Aideen Hayden, stated: ‘Threshold is calling on the Government to introduce a national strategy on private rented housing as a matter of urgency. This strategy must provide real security for individuals and families who are making their home in the rented sector – a security which is lacking today’.2 

Threshold believes that the key principle governing such a strategy is that everyone has a right to adequate housing regardless of the tenure in which they make their home.3 Such a strategy should complement and reinforce the Government’s Construction 2020 Strategy and the Social Housing Strategy 2020, both announced in 2014.4

Recent Trends and Developments in the Owner-Occupier Sector in Ireland

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconRecent Trends and Developments in the Owner-Occupier Sector in Ireland

Cathal O’Connell and Joe Finnerty


This article examines the recent experiences of the owner-occupier sector in Ireland, with reference to historic trends in home-ownership, the impact of the economic crash on the housing system and the consequences that followed, and the current and pending challenges faced by the sector. Given the links between the different sectors which comprise the Irish housing system, there will be some cross-referencing to the social housing and the private rental sectors in the course of the discussion. 

Tenure Trends in Irish Housing 

A feature of the Irish housing system has been the historically high level of owner-occupation and the consequent overshadowing of other tenures (see graph below). The rate of owner-occupation rose consistently throughout most of the twentieth century, peaking in the 1980s when the sector accounted for almost 80 per cent of the total housing stock, before a gradual reduction from the 1990s onwards.  

Catholic Social Teaching and Housing

on Friday, 22 May 2015. Posted in Issue 76 A Dysfunctional Housing System?

PdfIconCatholic Social Teaching and Housing

Gerry O’Hanlon SJ


‘Have youse (yis) no homes to go to?’ – the traditional, plaintive cry of long-suffering publicans, trying to clear their premises after closing time, can sound somewhat hollow and ironic to many in today’s Ireland. We live at a time when housing supply does not meet demand; when, in the wake of the collapse of the property bubble, home-owners may struggle to meet mortgage repayments and many fear re-possession; where those in negative equity may find themselves unable to move from their current home even when there are pressing family or financial reasons for them to do so; where waiting lists for social housing are at an alarmingly high level, and where many are unable to access or remain in private rented accommodation because of unaffordable increases in rents in many areas.

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.

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We tend to think that law defines what crime is. This makes sense because contemporary legal codes are concerned with marking out the territory where conduct is permissible by specifying the conduct that is outlawed. Yet the earliest bodies of law – consider for example, the Torah or Hammurabi’s Code – are at least as committed to articulating the good as proscribing the bad... 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.