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Taoiseach must reconsider priorities and commit to a referendum to help resolve housing crisis

The housing crisis will not be solved until the obstacle presented by the constitutional provision on private property is amended, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD said today.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Deputy Shortall called on the Taoiseach to commit to holding a referendum on Article 43 of the constitution as a matter of urgency.

She said a referendum on Article 43 was a glaringly obvious omission from the government’s list of eight planned referenda over the coming two years.

Deputy Shortall said:

“Taoiseach, how many homeless people does it take to get you to recognise the obstacle that is Article 43? The housing crisis will not be solved until it is changed.”

She added:

“Article 43, as you know, acknowledges a natural right to private property above any human made law. It goes on to state that this right must be “regulated by the principles of social justice” and that on occasion such rights require to be delimited by the “exigencies of the common good”.

“Notwithstanding these safeguards, regrettably the superior courts have consistently taken the most narrow view of Article 43 when the exercise of property rights is deemed to be detrimental to the ‘common good’.

“In the main they have found in favour of upholding private property rights or else ruled that the state must pay prohibitive levels of compensation.”

Deputy Shortall said successive Ministers for Housing have claimed that Article 43 significantly restricts the capacity of Government to introduce key measures to deal with the housing crisis.

This included things like:

  • The imposition of a meaningful vacant site levy to address the pressing issue of land hoarding;
  • Measures to tackle the large number of vacant properties;
  • Measures to prevent evictions in cases where a landlord is selling a property, and;
  • Attempts to implement compulsory purchase orders in respect to housing land banks.

Deputy Shortall added:

“So, while we have major problems regarding housing and housing land, leading to a crisis of affordability and supply, it seems there is no appetite on the part of Government to remove the constitutional obstacle which is Article 43.

“Taoiseach, how on earth is amending Article 43 of the Constitution not on your priority list for a referendum? Without it, how can we achieve social justice and serve the common good, in respect of housing?”