Rat-infested local authority housing condemned by human rights office


Local authority tenants have been left to endure mould, damp, poor heating, sewerage problems and rodent infestations, according to a damning report from the human rights watchdog.

he Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said the State had failed to ensure access to housing supply or take timely and effective action to address inadequate conditions in existing social housing.

Central parts of the outgoing government’s housing policy, including controversial family hubs and a reliance on rental supports instead of building homes, were also strongly criticised.

IHREC said the decision to withdraw from building social housing and provide rent supplement for private renters left low-income households vulnerable to shocks in the housing market.

It also said it was concerned housing policies potentially exposed minority groups, including black people, non-EU nationals, people with disabilities and Travellers to greater levels of discrimination in accessing housing and at a higher risk of homelessness.

The criticism is contained in a report submitted to the Council of Europe on the implementation of the European Social Charter, an international treaty guaranteeing fundamental social and economic rights. The report said Ireland had ratified the treaty in 2000 but opted not to accept certain parts of it.

Acting chief commissioner Dr Frank Conaty said the IHREC was challenging the State to drop its opposition to provisions that acknowledge its responsibility to promote access to adequate housing, to prevent and reduce homelessness, and to make housing accessible to those without resources.

While much of the criticism of the outgoing government’s handling of the housing crisis has focused on homelessness and the lack of house building, the IHREC report also stressed an apparent failure to maintain the standard of existing social housing.

It cited research by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy Research at NUI Galway, which looked at 13 local authority housing areas.

It found persistent problems of mould, damp, lack of heating, sewerage issues, rodent infestations and overcrowded conditions.

Residents of Balgaddy estate in south Co Dublin were said to continue to experience deep structural difficulties with their housing, including leaks, damp, mould, and electrical problems.

The IHREC was concerned about the implications of overcrowded accommodation and inadequate sanitation during the coronavirus crisis, saying it exposed people to a greater risk of contracting Covid-19.

“IHREC is further concerned that a lack of social housing supply is placing people that are homeless in emergency accommodation and living in overcrowded accommodation at a higher risk of exposure to Covid-19,” it said.

According to the report, family hubs are not suitable for the long-term needs of families and could normalise homelessness and have potential negative impact on physical and mental health.

It also criticised a “chronic lack” of provision of Traveller-specific accommodation.

Only 31.5pc of the State’s €14.5m budget for Traveller accommodation for 2019 had been drawn down by local authorities by last November.

Irish Independent

Source: Irish News