Social housing: FIDH takes Ireland before the European Committee of Social Rights

FIDH lodged today a collective complaint against Ireland before the European Committee of Social Rights in Strasbourg. The complaint alleges that Irish law, policy and practices on social housing do not comply with European housing, social protection and anti-discrimination standards. It concludes that Ireland violates Articles 11, 16, 17, 30 and E of the revised European Social Charter (RESC).

Evidence gathered from tenants across 20 communities, assisted by some national organisations and groups, exposes the appalling conditions in which some of the 130000 Irish low income households (almost 355000 people) live in local authority estates across the country. These include substandard housing and poor community facilities which appear to be inconsistent with international and European housing standards of adequacy, suitability and habitability of a house or a shelter.

Local authority housing tenants reported dampness, mould, fungal contamination, sewage invasions, smells and poor maintenance. Medical evidence reveals that these poor conditions are having significant health implications for tenants, particularly for children and the most vulnerable. Crime and anti-social behaviour are also commonplace in the areas dedicated to local authority housing, . Affected families lack effective legal remedies and other avenues to raise grievances and address their houses’ defective, inadequate and substandard conditions. Also, no organisation is there to represent local authority tenants’ interests in a structured manner, which results in protection being practically unavailable to them as a group. As a result, tenants within local authority estates are excluded and their claims tend to remain unheard.

All this, coupled with poor statistics, a failure by the authorities to set a timeframe and measure progress towards realising the rights set out in the Charter and to address these issues in an efficient manner – which led in some cases to local authority dwellings degenerating to such an extent that regeneration work is no longer possible- results in a clear breach by the state of its obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the economic and social rights of local authority tenants, as provided for in the relevant Charter provisions.

The right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other rights and the appropriate development of families and children. Also, local authority housing plays a fundamental societal role in providing housing to low income families and invididuals said FIDH President Karim Lahidji It is unacceptable that those who live in social housing accommodation are not adequately protected against violation of this right. These tenants are often among the most vulnerable in society and those who need the most to be protected against poverty and social exclusion. Ireland must act swiftly to ensure adequate housing conditions for local authority tenants and that its laws, policies and social housing programmes respect the rights enshrined in the European Social Charter."

Against this background, and to react to these violations and to the Irish State’s failure to address them, it was decided to file a complaint against Ireland for failure to:

  • ensure respect for the Charter’s rights within the legal, policy and administrative framework for local authority housing in the country;
  • ensure the adequacy, habitability and suitability of some local authority housing which are not in line with the revised Charter’s standards;
  • respect Charter’s rights in state regeneration programmes.

The complaint belongs to a wider strategy to address accommodation issues across Ireland including the appalling substandard conditions within local authority housing estates in Ireland. Irish organisations and groups (including the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy – National University of Ireland Galway, Ballymun Community Law Centre, Community Action Network, Dr. Rory Hearne of National University of Ireland Maynooth, and the Irish Traveller Movement) working to protect and promote the rights of tenants are associated to this action. The process was facilitated by the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd.), FIDH member organisation in Ireland.


The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe (CoE) convention which guarantees economic and social rights, including the right to adequate housing and the right to social, economic and legal protection. It was adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996. The revised version has been ratified by 33 CoE member states, 24 of which are European. The European Committee of Social Rights is the body in charge of monitoring the respect of the Charter. Under the Additional Protocol adopted in 1995 international NGOs, such as FIDH, can submit collective complaints to the Committee against States parties alleging a violation of the Charter and, if a violation is found, the Committee recommends the State to take the appropriate measures to ensure respect for the Charter.

Unacceptable and substandard conditions of social housing accommodations is a common problem in a number of European States parties to the Revised European Social Charter. FIDH’s complaint is indeed part of a broader strategy by FIDH and its member organisations to address the issue of inadequate social housing at the European level.

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