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‘A Room at the Inn?’ – Bishops’ pastoral letter on housing and homelessness

On the first day of the Autumn 2018 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, a press conference was held in the Columba Centre of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to launch a pastoral letter on housing and homelessness, A Room at the Inn?.  In attendance at the press conference were Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin and acting chair of the Council for Justice and Peace; Father Seán Donohoe OFM Cap, co-director of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin city; and Dr Emer Crooke, research coordinator of the Council for Justice and Peace. 

The Bishops’ pastoral message A Room at the Inn? addresses the root causes of the housing crisis and offers solidarity with anyone experiencing homelessness.  The dignity which, as Catholics, we recognise in every person, must be reflected in the reality of life in our society.  The key findings of A Room at the Inn? are:  

  • housing be recognised as a human right and that it should be safe, affordable and appropriate;
  • the provision of housing cannot be left solely to the market;
  • housing should not be treated as any other commodity;
  • housing policies should recognise the rights of families and seek to bring about greater equality in our society;
  • action must be taken to increase the supply and reduce the price of housing;
  • the private rental sector needs to ensure fair pricing and security of tenure in the context of its recent growth at the expense of home ownership and social housing;
  • cooperative housing should be encouraged and supported with the introduction of a new ‘Cost Rental’ sector which focuses on actual cost of providing housing and not profit;
  • taxation be considered for vacant sites; close tax loopholes and use compulsory purchase powers to utilise potential sites which lie undeveloped for a lengthy period of time;
  • the making of enormous profits through land speculation in housing developments and in maintaining high rents is particularly damaging to society;
  • the accommodation needs of the Travelling Community and of asylum seekers must be addressed in a housing strategy;
  • housing provision should take account of environmental sustainability and the use of proper building standards to ensure quality of living for occupants;
  • housing provision should take account of rural and urban development policies;
  • housing policy should be committed to ensuring that those employed in the construction sector can work in safe, secure and fair working environments;
  • energy poverty is widespread in Ireland and many are living in substandard or in minimal standards of accommodation;
  • the absence of adequate housing occurs as a result of governments prioritising other objectives over the provision of housing which is necessary for the dignity of the person;
  • an absence of an adequate and a secure home for children will impact on their life in terms of education, employment and health;
  • allowing a continuation of the disparity between those who have adequate and affordable housing and those who are poorly housed or without a home will create a divided society;
  • There needs to be an open debate about how public policy can serve to reclaim housing from global markets so that its primary and essential purpose is realised.

Please see the following link to the full text of A Room at the Inn? : Bishops’ pastoral letter on Housing and Homelessness ‘A Room at the Inn?’

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