Conditions in Local Authority housing across 20 communities around Ireland mean that 130,000 low income families – or close to 355,000 people – are living with persistent dampness, mould, sewerage, poor maintenance and pyrite. Independent medical evidence shows that these conditions have detrimental effects on the health of tenants, in particular children, the elderly and other vulnerable people.
Over 5 years, the Housing Policy Working Group – made up of Community Action Network (CAN), The Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at National University Ireland Galway, Ballymun Community Law Centre, Dr. Rory Hearne of the Geography Department at National University Ireland Maynooth and the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) – was supported by PILA and FLAC in bringing together a collective complaint against Ireland.
In July 2014, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), of which FLAC is a member organisation, lodged this landmark Collective Complaint to the European Committee of Social Rights around housing procedures and standards applied to social tenancies in Ireland which adversely affect social inclusion. The Complaint was deemed admissible by the Committee in March 2015.
The complaint alleges that Irish law, policy and practices on Local Authority housing do not comply with European standards, including standards relating to housing, social protection and anti-discrimination. It argues that poor conditions and other issues on housing estates violate key articles of the Revised European Social Charter, to which Ireland signed up in 2000, including the right to health, the right of families and children to have social, legal and economic protection and the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion.
While the process is still ongoing, it is hoped that a finding in violation of the European Charter on Social Rights will be used as leverage in bringing safe housing to 20 local authority estates, while inspiring other social movements to use the collective complaint mechanism.