Thursday, 9 November 2023

The Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy were delighted to host a debate on 'Housing and Healthcare in Ireland and the EU' with European Movement Ireland on Wednesday, 8th November in the Moore Institute Seminar Room, Hardiman Building, University of Galway.  This event was part of the EUAct2 pan-European programme, aimed at building democratic engagement with people who don't always feel heard in the EU. We're bring together people living in Ireland, Austria, Greece and Slovakia, giving them a platform to influence policies and share their ideas on a truly international level. We want you to have a seat at the table in discussing and influencing crucial policy.  The full EUACT 2 Debate Agenda and Prof Padraic Kenna's presentation are available to download. The other speakers were Dr Charles O' Mahony (School of Law, University of Galway), Dean Kenny (President of the Students Union, University of Galway), Gabrielle Leleu (Engagement Officer, European Movement Ireland) and Rory Harte (Head of Strategy, European Movement Ireland).

Friday, 19 May 2023

We are delighted to present this new book produced under the direction of Professor Padraic Kenna of University of Galway and Noria Derdek - Fondation Abbé Pierre (France), in association with Housing Rights Watch (Brussels). This publication contains a contemporary review of the “state of the art” of housing rights in Europe. The expert contributions are remarkable for their diversity of functions, points of view and the different origins of their legitimacy: judges and European monitoring bodies, lawyers, academics, legal officers of national and international non-governmental organizations and other experts. Key topics addressed include housing rights, European Union law and obligations of European States, social and environmental rights, strategic litigation, the requirements of “proportionality” in evictions, rent control, housing standards, social housing, fuel poverty and regulation.  This book outlines and evaluates key developments on housing rights in Europe in 2023, and will inform policy makers, legislators, housing rights advocates, adjudicators and decision-makers, on how the fundamental right to housing can be protected and promoted in Europe. The complete publication is available for free here  (available in English and French)

Tuesday, 25 April 2023

The Principles of Life Time Contracts apply to contracts for the essentials of life, food, housing, employment, energy and credit, essential for the self-realisation of people and their participation in society, guaranteeing a minimum of social dignity and moral values. Some of these Principles are informing the development of EU consumer law and being advanced within the CJEU application of consumer rights in relation to energy and employment as well respect for home and mortgage consumer rights. The Principles of Life Time Contracts are relevant for private, contract, consumer, labour, housing and other lawyers as well, as EU and public policy researchers.   Presentations at Life Time Contracts Conference, University of Galway April 2023          

Saturday, 15 April 2023

New article on The Conversation by Professor Padraic Kenna.  How the Private Rental Sector created a homelessness crisis in England and Ireland.  There is a homelessness crisis in Ireland. More than 11,000 people including 3,500 children were living in emergency homeless accommodation at the end of 2022 – a 300% increase since 2014. And these figures do not even capture the full extent of hidden homelessness because thousands of people in Irelandare living in unaffordable, unsafe, insecure housing.  In recent years Ireland’s private rental sector has been used to plug the gap left by reduced social housing availability. Combined with booming demand from private renters, properties are now in very short supply. England is experiencing similar shortages, with recent figures showing the number of homes available to rent across the UK has fallen by a third over the past 18 months, while average rents are now £2,200 a year higher than before COVID. But both Ireland and England are suffering from much more than too few houses or too much demand. People are struggling to afford decent homes after decades of policies designed to boost homeownership have turned property into piggy banks rather than homes. Read the full article here.  

Monday, 13 March 2023

Submission on Public Consultation of Credit Servicers Directive  Recent reports on 90% write downs for 1,900 selected AIB mortgage customers have again raised public concerns for those in long term mortgage arrears. The Oireachtas Finance Committee last week heard about the difficulties faced by borrowers whose loans were sold to ‘vulture funds’, and how one fund had obtained a possession order where the borrower had only €6,000 left to pay on their mortgage. A manager at MABS, who assist those in mortgage debt, described the sense of distress and hopelessness experienced by such borrowers, and the pressure on MABS advisers.  Some 113,000 mortgages in Ireland have been sold to ‘vulture funds, with over 20,000 in long term arrears. Recent large increases in interest rates ld by these funds featured in a RTE Primetime Report.  The Credit Servicers Directive (2021) will transform the sale of non-performing loans (NPLs) in secondary markets across the EU and globally, to ‘credit purchasers’ who will engage ‘credit servicers’ to deal with the borrower whose loan has been sold. From 2024, these ‘credit servicers’ can be authorised in any EU Member State and passported to operate across the EU, so that sold Irish NPLs could be administered from any EU Member State. Irish legislation in 2018 already requires the Central Bank to register vulture funds who purchase NPLs as ‘credit servicers’, but only Irish office addresses are publicly listed, and it is proposed to continue this approach. In the new Directive the ‘credit servicer’ can outsource their debt collection work, so the potential for “rogue” players to operate in this secondary market is a major worry for consumer organisations.  Templates have been prepared by EU institutions, so that tranches of NPLs can be sold in online auctions. The Directive must be transposed into Irish law by December 2023, but it will not be discussed in the Oireachtas, as transposition will take place though a statutory instrument.  This Directive follows the range of measures to deal with NPLs across Europe ordered by the ECB. The EU justification is that efficient management of NPLs reduces risks in banks’ balance sheets, enabling them to focus on lending to businesses and individuals. The Directive states that it seeks to ensure that the sale of such loans does not undermine borrowers’ rights, and in some EU States this could lead to improved standards, as it seeks to develop an EU-wide harmonised approach. However, the complex arrangements for cross border authorisation and regulation, in the context of the 24 official languages in the EU, and the different approaches to debt collection and extra judicial enforcement of the security on loans, raises fears of “a race to the bottom”  in terms of consumer protection. This Submission to the Public Consultation on the Directive of the Department of Finance by Professor Padraic Kenna, School of Law at University of Galway outlines the provisions of the Directive, which allows States to apply stricter protection for borrowers, if they so wish. It explains the complex cross-border procedures for authorisation and supervision of credit servicers – which in Ireland will be carried out by the Central Bank. The impact of the Directive on poor households and on human rights raises questions about the potential of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to protect against a ‘race to the bottom’ across Europe in relation to protection from evictions. Indeed, Charter rights on respect for home must be applied by Member States when implementing the EU law. Indeed, in the context that two-thirds of all homes repossessed in Ireland since the financial crisis have taken place without any court order there is a need for added protections once this secondary markets opens.  Advisers to secondary mortgage market players should ensure that reforms since 2012 in Irish law and policy are fully respected in all documentation. These include Central Bank Codes of Conduct for lenders, court protection (including a requirement for a proportionality assessment) against eviction from homes, personal insolvency systems (which protect a debtor’s ability to remain in their home), and legal obligations on lenders to apply a range of forbearance measures.  Recent Central Bank research shows over 8,000 by-to-let mortgages in long term arrears. There is no protection for tenants in those homes where a new owner of the mortgage wants to sell the dwelling to realize the security of the loan. None of the Central Bank consumer protections are available to these households, who may well be at risk of homelessness. Potentially, these 8,000 mortgages and another 63,000 homeloan mortgages, where the Central Bank recently assessed borrowers as having a low, moderate or uncertain ability to fully repay, could be sold in tranches through online auctions. Indeed, any loan which is more than 90 days in arrears can be sold in this secondary market. The Department of Finance Public Consultation is limited to questions on some discretions available to Member States in adopting the Directive, such as whether to exclude notaries, bailiffs and lawyers from the Directive, whether to allow individuals to carry out credit servicing, and whether the full range of forbearance measures set out in the Directive should be adopted in Irish law.  Major concerns exist about the lack of regulation of international ‘vulture funds’ buying Irish mortgages through this new secondary market. While the Directive sets out a range of measures and procedures which could regulate the players in this secondary market, how the Central Bank and Department of Finance intends to ensure effective and timely protection for Irish consumers is not yet clear.   Submission on Public Consultation of Credit Servicers Directive   Contact for more information:  

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

The principles of LifeTime Contracts apply to contracts for the essentials of life, food, housing, employment, energy and credit, essential for the self-realisation of people and their participation in society, guaranteeing a minimum of social dignity and moral values. Some of these Principles are informing the development of EU consumer law and being advanced within the CJEU application of consumer rights in relation to energy and employment as well respect for home and mortgage consumer rights. The Conference will be addressed by the creators of the LifeTime Contract Principles - Professor Luca Nogler and Prof Udo Reifner and will be of interest to private, contract, consumer, labour, housing and other lawyers as well, as EU and public policy researchers. The Event will take place on the 20th April 2023, from 9am to 5pm in CA110 J.E. Cairnes Building, University of Galway.  Register for the Event Here

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

The Centre of Housing Law, Rights and Policy and the School of Law at the University of Galway celebrates 60 years of the European Social Charter. The European Social Charter is the main instrument protecting social rights within the Council of Europe, as well as on its relationship to the European Union. This Event organised by Dr Shivaun Quinlivan and Professor Padraic Kenna of the School of Law, together with colleagues from the Academic Network on the European Social Charter (ANESC) at Maynooth University and Ulster University featured two interventions. A first intervention by Prof Aoife Nolan discussed the achievements of the European Social Charter and of its monitoring body (the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR)), as well as the challenges ahead, with a particular emphasis on the Collective Complaints Mechanism which allows NGOs and unions to address situations of non-conformity to the ECSR, and on the role of civil society in the reporting mechanism of the Social Charter. A second intervention by Prof Olivier De Schutter of University of Louvian, Belgium, and former UN Special Rapporteur, explored the relationship of the Social Charter to the EU and EU law.  While the EU has adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights (including a set of social rights and principles) that is binding on the EU institutions and on the EU Member States in the implementation of EU law, and while the EU institutions have endorsed the European Pillar of Social Rights, the relationship of these instruments to the Council of Europe’s Social Charter and, more generally, the role of the Social Charter in law and policy-making in the EU remain debated. This event, the European Social Charter at Sixty: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects for the Protection of Social Rights in Europe took place on 10th May 2022, and was chaired by Ms Eleanor Sharpston, a former Advocate General to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Link to video recording of webinar   

Friday, 24 June 2022

New research by NUI Galway has found that cost of purpose-built student accommodation is a barrier to full participation in third level from prospective students.  The research compares rents and availability of university provided student accommodation in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England and some European Universities. The 68 page Report shows that purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) offered by Irish Universities is relatively costly, compared with Northern Irish Universities and some European Universities.  The research noted that the cost and extent of PBSA is of major concern to Student Unions and prospective students, and that it acts as a barrier to full participation from potential students, including those with disabilities, as well as some international students. The development of high cost, private, tax relief driven, investor-led PBSA is driving higher rents and lowering space and accommodation standards. This research was conducted Áine Dillon, BCL Law Student, and Professor Padraic Kenna at the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy, NUI Galway over the past year. It found that single occupancy rooms make up less than half the accommodation provided by Irish universities, with shared occupancy rooms most common in NUI Galway and University College Cork. Professor Kenna said: “It is a surprising finding that rents for university provided purpose-built student accommodation are so high in Ireland. These could rise even further due to current development costs. Without a capital subsidy to the university providers, it will be increasingly difficult to provide affordable new student accommodation. With that in mind, our report recommends the establishment of Student Housing Associations (Approved Housing Bodies) to provide affordable student accommodation.” The report advocates for low-cost, socially inclusive, disability friendly, digitally advanced, student housing. Access to affordable and good quality PBSA is a significant public interest issue, and one which will be highlighted as the new Technological Universities in Ireland begin to provide student accommodation. Report on University Student Accommodation

Friday, 24 June 2022

The Centre recently completed the Research Project on Building effective tenant participation in the management of local authority housing in Ireland,  funded by the Housing Agency Research Support Programme 2020 and undertaken in collaboration with Community Action Network and the University of Southampton Law School. This research examined how structured tenant participation could be developed in the Irish local authority sector. It reviewed policy and practice on tenant participation in other jurisdictions, as well as an assessment of the current practice in Ireland. A key feature of the  project was the holding of ‘Dialogue Events’ involving a variety of stakeholders; tenants, local representatives and local authority staff, exploring the opportunities and challenges of developing a proposal for tenant participation which would be inclusive, rights based and innovative.  The Report ‘Empowering Tenants: Protecting Human Rights - Effective Tenant Participation in the Management of Local Authority Housing’ is available here. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

  Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy (CHRP) NUI Galway Submission on Referendum of Housing. Professor Padraic Kenna, NUI Galway. There is a significant popular movement for inserting a right to housing into the Irish Constitution, and significant work has been carried out by civil society organisations to prepare a suitable wording. One of the key questions on a constitutional right to housing is whether and how it would be enforced by courts – the question of justiciability. Would the courts order a State body to provide housing to any person who invoked the constitutional right? While there has been much written on this question internationally, especially in relation to South Africa – which has had such a rights for more than 20 years, it is important to recognise the particular role of courts in Ireland under the Irish Constitution -Bunreacht na hEireann.  This Submission from Professor Padraic Kenna at NUI Galway to the Commission on Housing examined significant Irish housing cases where constitutional rights were invoked by people seeking basic housing services.  Since there is no explicit right to housing in the Constitution Irish courts have relied exclusively on a natural law rights interpretation of Article 40.3.2 on the unenumerated right to bodily integrity (established in Ryan v Attorney General in 1965). However, even while recognising the existence of this constitutional right, in the O’ Reilly v Limerick Corporation case (and later cases) judgments have reiterated the principle of separation of powers which precludes courts from adjudicating on the redistribution and allocation of common goods (taxation) and common burdens (regulation). These are seen solely as functions of the Government, Ministers and State bodies.  A constitutional right to housing would be a valuable step forward from the reliance on natural law unenumerated rights based on a case in 1965. It could move judicial oversight to a more structured, contemporary and internationally accepted standard of housing rights protection. This could encompass not just rights of access to housing for homeless people, but also address issues of affordability, sustainability, community safety.  At the same, time it could preserve the highly prized independence of the Irish judiciary from the political branch (allowing elected governments sufficient legal space to decide on the overall level of resources to be made available for public benefit), respect for separation of powers, and non-interference in public bodies allocation of resources to individual applicants. Clearly, any Irish constitutional right to housing would not undermine or contradict already accepted Irish State human rights obligations under the UN, Council of Europe and European Union Treaties, and a harmonious interpretation is assumed. Irish courts could draw on human rights jurisprudence on respecting, protecting and fulfilling the right, declaring the content of the minimum core obligations, in their interpretation of existing housing legislation – which, in any case, already involves extensive State housing provision and support, possibly meeting the requirements of the minimum core obligations of the UN Covenant (with some gaps in provision for particular groups). In addressing the concept of progressive realization of a right which is exceptionally complex and expensive to implement, Irish courts could draw on Council of Europe jurisprudence on how the State should take steps to implement it within a reasonable time, with measurable progress and making maximum use of resources.  The Submission also explores some recent research on housing and home generally, international housing rights jurisprudence, potential costs of implementing a constitutional right to housing in Ireland, and contemporary distributive justice issues. One key question is what would a right to housing cost? It is important to point out that the overall objective of Irish housing policy is that every citizen in the State should have access to good quality homes: to purchase or rent at an affordable price; built to a high standard and in the right place; offering a high quality of life (Housing for All 2021). Between 2001 and 2020 some €29bn. was spent on this objective, a further €12bn. is committed in Housing for All  by 2030. A recent Parliamentary Budget Office Report calculates that the total cost of meeting all existing housing need would be approximately €29bn. In this context, a constitutional right to housing would build on the existing and extensive legislative and resource commitments of the State, and consequently, the anticipated costs of implementing a constitutional right to housing are no longer a mystery. The Submission concludes that shifting the constitutional basis of housing from “unenumerated rights” and “bodily integrity,” to a specific Article approved in a referendum, linked to modern international jurisprudence, would signify a major and historical step, while at the same time preserving the common law tradition, and separation of powers doctrine. CHLRP submission to the housing commissions  

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Housing and the Future of Europe  Professor Padraic Kenna - NUI Galway   Housing – or the challenges facing young people in accessing affordable housing, is emerging as one of the key issues for the European Union. While the great majority of Europeans live in good quality, affordable housing as a result of major State and private investment since the 1950s, the picture for young Europeans is not so rosy.  Housing as a European Issue  The majority of people aged 18-34 across the EU still live with their parents, largely because they cannot afford to rent or buy. While there are major differences in the housing situation in every Member State, all prosperous European cities face similar challenges, especially those with population growth and inward migration.  The lack of affordable housing particularly impacts on poor and socially excluded people, such as LGBTQI+ young people, lone parents and migrants. Almost 10% of the EU-27 population (and 35% of those who are poor) live in households that spend 40% or more of their disposable income on housing. Homelessness has risen across Europe, although this year, the European institutions, Member State governments and civil society have committed to combatting homelessness under the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness, with a target set for ending homelessness by 2030.   More and more Europeans are looking to the EU to tackle the challenges of our times in such areas as climate change and environmental protection, economic stability, digitalisation of society, data protection, the sharing economy, responsible lending, good jobs, improved quality of life, recognition of diversity, fundamental rights and social inclusion.   Could the EU do more in the field of housing?   It is important to remember that the EU has no direct competences/powers in housing as such – it is unlikely to ever build, sell or rent homes. For example, in relation to owner-occupation or housing as property, Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU states that “This Treaty shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.” Of course, Member State constitutional and legal provisions on the regulation of use of property in the public interest are mirrored in the Treaties. But housing is also about more than property, and despite all the differences between national housing systems, there are many common issues facing all Europeans. Some of these are relevant for, and overlap with, EU policies, which have already been approved by Member States.  In many areas which relate to housing, Member States have agreed to share their competences/powers, such as in supervision of mortgage lenders, setting of euro-area interest rates, consumer protection and fundamental rights, and in non-discrimination on gender or other grounds.   The European Commission, through the European Semester, and referring to the European Pillar of Social Rights, provides Member States with policy support, guidance and orientation on how to design efficient national policies aimed at ensuring citizens’ access to affordable, secure and accessible social housing. The European Commission assists Member States to deal with housing supply shortage, dysfunctional housing markets, macroeconomic imbalances and insufficient stock of social housing.[1]  Many issues which affect access to, and enjoyment of, housing rights are impacted by the unique architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union. These include the rules on social and affordable housing as a Service of General Economic Interest, and the rules on Member State budget deficits and borrowing levels for investment. Of course, these rules do not in any way prevent Member States from acting to address national housing system deficits. There are proposals to separate investment in social and affordable housing from the rules on general government debt, avoiding State budget deficits.  The European Commission, European Parliament and European Central Bank support measures which limit excessive house price increases, and have also recommended increased investment of all forms of social and affordable housing to promote wider access to adequate, secure and affordable housing for Europeans. Indeed, EU institutions are beginning to recognise the need for choice, stability and balance in housing systems across Europe. In 2021, the European Parliament Report on ‘access to decent and affordable housing for all’ called for adequate, energy-efficient and healthy housing for all Europeans, and major investment in social, public, affordable and energy-efficient housing.  The EU Green Deal is especially significant for housing investment across Europe. The decarbonisation of the EU economy by 2050 is a common objective in the fight against climate change, and the energy used for heating and cooling buildings is one of its main causes. Through the Green Deal, the European Union set itself the goal of making buildings and housing more energy-efficient.   The European Single Market and social market economy of the EU also impact on housing on many levels. But, of course, access to adequate housing is essential for the full participation of every EU citizen in society.  Looking to the Future  All of these issues were up for discussion at the Conference on the Future of Europe Event on Housing, hosted by NUI Galway on 9th December 2021, in association with European Movement Ireland and The Housing Agency. This EU initiative seeks to open a space for debate to address Europe’s challenges and priorities, and it is important that housing is treated as one of the important issues for Europe’s young (and not so young) citizens.   One of the key questions addressed by presenters and participants at the NUI Galway Event was “what your ideal Europe would look like in the next 10-20 years”. Of course, this lead to many other questions. Will everyone in Europe be able to access decent and affordable housing? How much will we pay for our homes? Will our housing systems contribute to climate change, or will we have sustainable and energy efficient homes? Will our communities be inclusive of all? Will our housing policies reflect gender equality? Will we have segregation based on income, identity, disability, nationality or connectivity? Will our students and young people be able to access good quality affordable housing if they chose to study or work in another Member State? Will the EU help us ensure that no-one is homeless due to lack of housing? Will our housing systems be defined by boom-bust cycles and unpredictable mortgage interest rates for aspiring home-owners? Will the EU support a minimum standard of housing in line with human dignity for all? Will the human right to home take priority in housing-related policymaking, or will it be something else? What does the commitment in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights “to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources” really mean? How does the European Pillar of Social Rights actually inform EU policies?   Of course, we found that the answers to these questions involve national, regional and local actors and organisations, as well as European Union institutions. We also agreed that it is really time to include housing as part of the Europe-wide debate on the Future of Europe. We will develop and share better solutions, working together as Europeans.  I wish to sincerely thank all those who presented to this Event, as well as the moderators Cllr Alison Gilliland, Lord Mayor of Dublin, and Bob Jordan, CEO of the Housing Agency (sponsors of the Event). Special thanks to colleagues Professor Martin Hogg and Professor Geraint Howells, and Researchers Áine Dillon and David Martin, with Cormac Staunton of Staunton Media. The sponsorship and assistance of Stephen O’ Shea and Noelle O’ Connell of the European Movement Ireland was invaluable.  We hope that this Report and the accompanying video of the Event available on the CHLRP website. Will contribute to the ongoing debate within the European Union about how organise our housing systems for benefit of all.  Professor Padraic Kenna. 1st February 2022.  Link to the Report on the Conference on the Future of Europe Housing Event   Link to the Full Video on the Conference on the Future of Europe Housing Event       [1] EU funding for housing projects is available through the European Regional Development Fund, the Just Transition Fund, InvestEU, ESF+, Horizon Europe, Next Generation EU, Recovery and Resilience Facility, Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+). The European Investment Bank provides low interest long term loans for social and affordable housing.         [1] EU funding for housing projects is available through the European Regional Development Fund, the Just Transition Fund, InvestEU, ESF+, Horizon Europe, Next Generation EU, Recovery and Resilience Facility, Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+). The European Investment Bank provides low interest long term loans for social and affordable housing.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

- No EU State Aid Related Obstacles - Executive Summary available here: Executive SummaryFull Report available here: Full Report Research being launched today (Thursday 29th April 2021), Commissioned by the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and produced by Professor Padraic Kenna, at the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy, NUI Galway, confirms that state support in new cost rental housing is in line with EU rules known as services of general economic interest (SGEI), which are decided by Member States, such as Ireland. The report, Supporting the Irish Housing System to Address Housing Market Failure, indicates that State support for cost rental will not distort the housing market, but will contribute to a properly functioning housing system. It outlines how the EU SGEI framework, and the specific conditions that are applied to individual Member States, enable them to support their housing systems to address housing market failure. Highlighting the gap in the market supply of affordable rented housing in Ireland, this report clears the way for larger scale state support in a cost rental scheme, which is badly need to address crippling rents in the private rented sector. The Irish Government will legislate on the terms and conditions of any cost rental programme in the forthcoming Affordable Housing Bill. Speaking at today’s launch Dr Donal McManus, ICSH Chief Executive says, “Our sector has been calling for cost rental housing for a number of years to embed affordability in our housing system. The 2020 Programme for Government commits to a cost rental model that creates affordability for tenants and a long term sustainable model for the construction and management of homes. 390 cost rental home have been approved this year by the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, to be delivered by three AHBs. Building on this, and as part of the Government’s forthcoming ‘Housing For All’ policy initiative, we would support the recommendation in Professor Kenna’s report that the Government should introduce a multi-annual cost rental programme to ensure continuous delivery of cost rental housing over the coming years. This research provides a comprehensive view on how EU SGEIs operate in the housing sector and identifies that the public policy objective of meeting citizens' housing needs, where this need is not being met by the market, is one of a number of reasons as to why cost rental housing is consistent with EU SGEI rules.” SGEIs, such as social and affordable housing activities deliver outcomes in the overall public interest that would not be supplied by the market without public intervention. The concept of a service of general economic interest is an evolving notion that depends, among other things, on the needs of citizens, technological and market developments and social and political preferences in the Member State concerned. Irish state support in this area has been recognised as an SGEI in EU law for over twenty years. Author of the report, Professor Padraic Kenna, of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy NUI Galway, says “An affordable and good-quality home is essential for every person’s well-being and social participation. Reliance on markets has largely failed to ensure adequate and affordable rented housing, even for households in secure and well paid employment. In Ireland, It is widely acknowledged that many private sector rents are unaffordable, except for a small proportion of the population, and this constitutes a market failure. The two elements that are required for a Member State to make lawful use of SGEIs are economic activity and market failure. AHBs should have a key role in delivery and management as it chimes with their non-profit mission; they are managing homes not real estate assets, and there is no conflict between the interests of shareholders and tenants. AHBs are in it for the long-term and there is no leakage of state investment. To ensure that these cost rental homes remain truly affordable, this model must be large-scale and long-term. To protect State investment, safeguards are needed to ensure that these homes don't become part of an offshore fund’s ‘asset portfolio’. Equally, tenant purchase would completely undermine the economic basis of the cost rental model in Ireland.” Dr McManus added, “AHBs are entrusted by local authorities to provide accommodation, which is in line with their non-profit Articles of Association and charitable status. This has been accepted by the European Commission as meeting the criteria for social housing SGEIs. The Affordable Housing Bill 2020 sets out a new legislative basis for cost rental delivery in Ireland. And the Cost Rental Equity Loan (CREL) scheme, announced in Budget 2021, will see the Department make €35 million in loan funding available to Approved Housing Bodies for the purpose of providing cost rental housing. Cost rental schemes, with currently proposed rents of €1,200 per month, will facilitate those in the income deciles who cannot afford to rent in the private market. However, to achieve affordable rents of €1,200 per month requires State Aid. Current cost rental housing plans include 50 units at Enniskerry Road, County Dublin, 306 units at Shanganagh Co. Dublin and a planned cost rental scheme of 400 units at St. Michael’s Estate, Dublin 8. However, in the context of approximately 340,000 private tenancies in Ireland, a multi-annual cost rental delivery programme is required to ensure that this form of tenure is scaled-up to meet the housing affordability needs of Irish households.” Notes Defining Social Housing at EU Level: There is no universally accepted definition of social housing and it is not officially defined across Europe. Two models have been identified, mainly based on the allocation criteria. Universal approaches assume public responsibility for providing everyone with decent, affordable housing, while targeted approaches assume that social housing is only directed to those whose demand is not satisfied by the market. Four general features of social housing can be identified that vary between different national systems: Tenure: Social housing is mainly provided for rent, but in some countries also for sale, intermediate tenure or shared ownership (i.e. to buy                a share and pay a rent for the remainder).Provision: Different providers of social housing exist, ranging from authorities, non-profit associations and companies to cooperatives, for-      profit developers and investors.Beneficiaries: In some countries social housing is directed to all citizens and high income ceilings should guarantee a mix among beneficiaries. In others, it is a targeted service and low income ceilings ensure that only the most vulnerable groups are eligible. Besides income ceilings, other criteria such as housing conditions, homelessness, unhealthy accommodation, over-occupation and forced cohabitation can play a role and prioritise certain target groups such as youths, elderly, disabled persons, families with many children, ethnic minorities or refugees.Funding arrangements: The social housing sector mainly relies on public funds in some countries, while in others on credits raised on the finance market. Different sources are used for social housing projects, ranging from private loans, mortgages and private funds to public grants and loans. In addition, municipalities often contribute by offering land at reduced prices or even for free. Defining Cost Rental Housing: The term ‘cost rental’ has been defined as ‘all rental housing, irrespective of ownership, the rents of which cover only actual incurred costs of a stock of dwellings’. Cost rental housing is based on the principle of ‘maturation’ – i.e. the loans on earlier stock will have reduced over time, or have been paid off, and the costs of new developments can be pooled (cross-subsidised) over the total stock (or particular parts of it), resulting in a small increase in rents overall. The predominant source of finance can be secured through private borrowing, but the equity in (and security of charges on) the overall stock may result in lower borrowing costs. There may also be an element of public subsidy, or State Aid, free or cheap land, public guarantees on borrowing, interest subsidies, and housing benefits for tenants, in order to keep the rent levels at affordable levels. But maturation is the key in facilitating lower pooled rents, which still must cover management and maintenance costs. Interpreting SGEIs: The exceptions to EU rules on competition and other areas which SGEIs enjoy “can apply only if the services in question enjoy, in advance and by legal act, have been attributed a mission of general interest.” It is necessary to make explicit at the national level, that a particular activity is categorised as an SGEI, in order to apply the rules on eligible State Aid. Competition Commissioner Vestager, in 2017, stated that to be an SGEI, “social housing must respond to a public need: the provision of accommodation to disadvantaged citizens or socially less advantaged groups who due to solvency constraints are unable to obtain housing at market conditions. Member States may not define a social housing SGEI so broadly that it manifestly goes beyond responding to this public need.” However she adds, “The scope and organization of SGEIs differ significantly from one Member State to another, depending on the history, the culture of public intervention and the economic and social conditions prevailing in each Member State.” This offers a wider scope for social housing as an SGEI. In the recent 2018 Dutch CJEU case, AHBs in Ireland were defined in terms of SGEI or public service criteria, emphasising the not-for profit element. Defining Housing Affordability: 35% of net household income is a legally defined metric of affordability in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. However, affordable rents (at 35% of net income) in average private housing in Dublin in 2019/2020 were out of reach of Income Deciles 1–9. In Galway, those in Income Deciles 1–8 could not afford private sector rents. In the rest of the country, those in Income Deciles 1–7 could not access affordable housing in the private rented sector. Average private sector rents per month are currently not affordable for Income Deciles 1 (Weekly affordable rent at €74.57) to 8 (Weekly affordable rent at €224.62) in Dublin. This demonstrates that there is a significant requirement for increased affordable rental housing to cater for all those excluded from the private rented market. Cost rental housing should clearly target those households who are excluded from the private rented sector, or who cannot access housing at affordable rents, especially those in Income Deciles 4–8. 2019 Average net disposable income per week Weekly affordable rent at 35% net income Income Decile 1 € 213.05 € 74.57 Income Decile 2  € 284.34 € 99.52 Income Decile 3  € 330.51 € 115.68 Income Decile 4  € 374.70 € 131.15 Income Decile 5  € 428.91 € 150.06 Income Decile 6  € 491.00 € 171.85 Income Decile 7  € 556.81 € 194.88 Income Decile 8  € 641.76 € 224.62 Income Decile 9  € 767.18 € 268.51 Income Decile 10  € 1,266.16 € 443.16 Executive Summary available here: Executive Summary Full Report available here: Full Report    

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The taxation of housing in Ireland generates strong reactions. Powerful expectations persist of major State support for the property ownership, firstly involving major State subsidies for land ownership, and later until the 1990s, major State support for owner-occupied housing. The current local property tax (which is only levied on housing and not land) has proven quite divisive, and it is timely to review how housing is taxed in other countries. Professor Padraic Kenna of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway has been cooperating in an international study led by the London School of Economics and Copenhagen Business School, examining the taxation of all types of housing across European and other countries. Housing taxation takes many forms, but only in the Netherlands is there an imputed rent taxation system for owner-occupiers – and even there it does not reflect market values. Local property taxes (not based on imputed rent) for owner-occupied housing are in use everywhere, and valuations are also mostly well below market values. Capital gains tax on primary residences is only paid in Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the USA, although in all countries, landlords pay a capital gains tax on rented property. Owner-occupied housing is also treated differently to other assets included rented housing, in relation to inheritance taxes. While the price of housing and land has been rising rapidly in many countries and wealth is more concentrated than income, increasing land and property taxes can be seen to be both more equitable, particularly as a tax on unearned income, taking pressure off income taxation. However, in all countries, taxes on real property, including housing, and other types of wealth only account for a relatively small part of tax revenues. Taxes on property in Ireland at 5.6% of total taxes and duties (2019) were the same as the OECD average, but significantly lower than Australia, the UK and USA. This new research published by London School of Economics/ Copenhagen Business School examines taxation of housing addresses housing specific issues: how owner-occupation compares with renting, particularly private renting, and what impact taxation, subsidies and other factors have on tenure choice within each country and the how the systems vary across countries. The analysis takes into account a wide range of taxes, such as property, transactions, stamp duties, wealth and inheritance, where there may be tenure differences. In most countries, owner-occupied housing is treated as a consumption good, with no mortgage interest relief or capital gains tax. Private renting on the other hand – with some exceptions, notably the UK - is generally treated, as an investment good, with taxes on net income and capital gains. But even that is changing – in seven countries, four from Eastern Europe, mortgage tax relief for landlords is not available, and in the UK for instance, tax reliefs are now being heavily restricted. Overall, it is clear that housing taxation remains a highly complex area, where many if not most decisions are made for purposes unrelated to neutrality between tenures, and often for highly political reasons. Equally, there are immense differences between countries in terms of the mix of tenure-specific and other housing and land-based taxes. How taxation varies between owner-occupation, private renting and other housingtenures in European countries - An overview. Jens Lunde (Copenhagen Business School) and Christine Whitehead (London School of Economics). February 2021. UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence. The full report is available here: The Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy (CHLRP) at NUI Galway endeavours to create a space for a free and open discussion, combining research, resources, advocacy and publications on housing law, rights and policy in Ireland and internationally.See

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

This Webinar explored the potential of the comprehensive Model Emergency Housing Legislation to protect the right to housing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. Through this model legislation we are urging governments around the world to use the basic legal provisions outlined in it to prompt and guide the development of domestic laws to ensure access to housing for all. This seminar discussed how this Model Legislation can be advanced with a panel of members of the steering committee: Facilitator: Cecilia Forrestal, Community Action Network (CAN) Why Covid19 Emergency Housing Legislation?, Marguerite Angelari, Senior Legal Officer with Open Society Foundations, Justice Initiative.What is in the legislation?, Padraic Kenna, Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at the Law School NUIG (Presentation)How can Governments and Legislators use it.?, Leilani Farha, Global Director of The ShiftHow can housing advocates and NGOS use it?, Maria Jose Aldanas, Policy Officer at FEANTSA and Coordinator of Housing Rights Watch You can read a summary of the meeting here. In case you could not watch it, here you will find the video recording of the session:

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Prof Padraic Kenna of the School of Law and the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy recently co-wrote an article on housing as a human right for the Open Society Justice Initiative. "I have nowhere to go – I see myself ending up on the streets," one 30-year-old female asylum seeker in the UK told The Guardian last November just as the country's new COVID-19 cases were beginning to peak in the tens of thousands. Over the last year, the pandemic led to homelessness for tens of thousands of people in the UK, from refused asylum seekers, ostensibly protected by a high court order, to workers in precarious service industry jobs. The UK government has extended a national ban on evictions until May 2021, but some warn that many have already been evicted due to loopholes.  Read more...  

Friday, 11 December 2020

Model emergency housing legislation addresses rented and mortgaged housing, migrant and refugee housing, housing for people with disabilities and those facing homelessness Dr Padraic Kenna from the School of Law in NUI Galway, has drafted Model Emergency Housing Legislation on housing rights with the Open Society Justice Initiative in New York, and international housing rights experts. The Model Emergency Housing Legislation is based on existing laws around the world, but builds on these to include housing rights for all. It can be used by human rights advocates and legislators to integrate the universally recognised right to housing into a binding national law.   To coincide with the release of the model legislation, the launch of a new report ‘Protecting the Right to Housing during the COVID-19 Crisis’ examines the measures taken by countries across the world in relation to housing during the pandemic. In March 2020, Ireland took immediate action to deal with the risk to human life and public health posed by COVID-19. Emergency legislation to prevent the spread of the disease and mitigate its adverse economic consequences included a rent freeze and a ban on evictions. Guidance for protecting homeless and vulnerable groups was issued in April. In line with European Banking Authority Guidelines, mortgage lenders in Ireland vowed to defer legal proceedings and repossessions against borrowers in default, and to extend payment holidays to homeowners hit by the pandemic. While medical advances will now, hopefully, protect people from the disease, it is generally accepted that the adverse economic consequences of COVID-19 will continue for some time. Just as there has been amazing progress in medicine, now is also the time to make progress in developing housing rights. Emergency measures on housing rights must be extended and developed to ensure the right to adequate housing for all. Dr Padraic Kenna, Senior Lecturer in Law, and Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at the School of Law, NUI Galway, said: “Many countries have implemented legislation to prevent evictions and rent rises during the COVID-19 pandemic. We now need to build on those housing rights protections in the context of the economic consequences of the pandemic. “This model emergency housing legislation addresses rented and mortgaged housing, but also housing rights protection for people in informal and temporary settlements, migrant and refugee housing, housing for people with disabilities and those facing homelessness. These are often the people who are most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to poor sanitation and overcrowding.” Marguerite Angelari, J.D., Senior Legal Officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, involved in the drafting of the model legislation, said: “Governments must now take a comprehensive legislative approach to protecting the right to housing until the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 is over. We hope this model legislation will act as a catalyst for the acceptance of comprehensive legislation to ensure the right to housing is protected.” Economic hardship, globally, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted housing for millions around the world, accelerating homelessness, evictions, and the loss of home ownership. Even before the pandemic, approximately 1.8 billion people globally lived in what international bodies characterised as “grossly inadequate” housing conditions and homelessness. Adequate housing is a key factor affecting a person’s likelihood of being severely impacted by COVID-19, including their ability to socially distance and access clean water and sanitation. Leilani Farha, Global Director for The Shift, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, and 2020 Open Society Foundations Fellow, said: “COVID-19 has laid bare the global housing crisis. The proliferation of homelessness, and inadequate, overcrowded, and unaffordable housing is the result of governments having prioritized housing as a means for financial investors to generate profit rather than treating it as a basic necessity and a human right. Governments must ensure domestic legislation protects housing as a human right in a manner consistent with their international human rights obligations.” The Model Emergency Housing Legislation is available here: To read the report ‘Protecting the Right to Housing during the COVID-19 Crisis’ is available here: For more about the Open Society Justice Initiative, visit:

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

The project will facilitate and enhance the digital skills and competences of those working in housing and property, real estate, and associated activities across Europe. NUI Galway's Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy (CHLRP) has been successful in its bid for an EU ERASMUS+ funding award of €500,000 with five European partners. Over three years, the project will design and create an international online course for housing and property professionals in the public and private sectors. The modules, materials and learning tools will include PROPTECH – a term which includes blockchain, smart contracts, as well as online transactions and platforms for housing, property and real estate exchange and management. These will enhance digital skills and competences, and produce a skills management tool for housing and real estate operations, based on a mobile micro-learning platform. One part focusses on developing learning tools for professionals managing apartments/condominiums. Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway,, said: "This award recognises the European perspective of our work at NUI Galway, and makes our expertise and knowledge of housing and property issues available to an EU-wide audience. Our European and Irish housing and property law expertise at NUI Galway was integral to the successful €500,000 bid. The project will develop state of the art online learning tools to enhance learner engagement, motivation and participation. The ultimate training will be available for professionals involved in the housing, property and real estate fields, as well as policymakers." ERASMUS+ is the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport. With a budget of €14.7 billion for 2014-2020 it provides opportunities for over four million participants to study, train, gain experience, and volunteer abroad. In addition to offering grants, Erasmus+ also supports teaching, research, networking and policy debate on EU topics. The European partners in this project with NUI Galway are UNESCO Housing Chair (Spain), University of Silesia (Poland), Union Internationale de la Propriete Immobiliere (Belgium), Infrachain, a.s.b.l. (Luxembourg) and Fundacion Iberioamericana del Conocimiento (Spain). Recently, the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy published a set of Briefing Papers on integrating housing rights into the EU economic governance framework. This is available at

Monday, 18 May 2020

Report shines a light on a ‘lost decade’ of mortgage possessions and warns that Covid-19 could result in a new round of arrears A major research report confirms, for the first time, that almost half of the mortgage possession cases listed before the courts are being pursued by “household name” banks, which are directly supervised by the European Central Bank. The research, A Lost Decade – Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, was carried out by Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway. The report examined some 12,650 mortgage possession cases between April and December 2019, and provides a detailed breakdown of the financial institutions seeking possession of homes. The ECB ‘significant’ supervised entities accounting for 46% of the listed cases in the study period are AIB (and its subsidiaries), Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and KBC. The report also reveals that one in every five mortgage cases over that period was being pursued by Permanent TSB, which is 75% owned by the Minister for Finance of Ireland and is supervised by the Central Bank of Ireland. So-called vulture funds, or non-bank mortgage entities and retail credit firms, were taking one third of cases before the Irish courts over that period. Dr Kenna warned that Covid-19 could result in a new round of mortgage arrears and that many of the challenges of the last decade could re-emerge: “It is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past and I would recommended that those facing mortgage payment problems post Covid 19 should be able to avail of the State mediation, personal insolvency and new legislation in 2019 which obliges courts to carry out proportionality assessments.” His research confirmed that women have been particularly vulnerable to the actions of financial entities. “One of the most glaring findings of this research is the absence of a gender dimension in State reports on the issue. Women as the majority of single-parents, with responsibility for children and often most relying on State supports, are more heavily impacted by these actions of financial entities. Yet, despite legal obligations on equality, no State agency, including the Central Bank of Ireland, addresses gender in its reports”, explained Dr Kenna. The research finds that only one quarter of borrowers at risk of losing their homes had any listed legal representation. Some 7% represented themselves. In contrast, financial institutions were almost always legally represented, with just 10 legal firms accounting for 70% of the possession proceedings on behalf of financial entities. The report confirms that the numbers of possession orders being granted is reducing year on year, since 2015. Continuing the pattern over the years, for every two orders granted, three are not granted by the courts, for a variety of reasons. Most cases were dealt with by the County Registrar rather than the Judge in Circuit Courts. The highest proportion of cases were located in the South East (19% of cases) and Midland (18% of cases) Circuits. The full report, A Lost Decade – Study on Mortgage Possession Court Lists in Ireland, is available here: A-Lost-Decade---Report-on-Mortgage-Possession-Cases-in-Ireland- For more information please contact Dr Padraic Kenna at 0864176484 or, or Sheila Gorham, Marketing and Communications, NUI Galway, at Note to editors: The research is based on a sample of 12,650 cases, between April and December 2019, comprising 8,505 (67%) on County Registrars Lists, 1,467 (12%) on the Callover Lists and some 2,678 (21%) on the Circuit Court Judges’ List. There were 5,340 unique cases (excluding duplicate listings) in the period. This duplication of Listing occurs due to adjournments, or separate hearings, and Listings in each of the Registrars, Callover or Judges Lists in the period.  Media Coverage This major research report was discussed in many media outlets. These include reports from The Irish Times here and here, RTÉ News, RTÉ Six One News (Tuesday, @20.28), Irish Independent here and here, Irish Examiner here and here, Nuacht TG4 (@9.46), Newstalk, and Breaking News here and here.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Dr Padraic Kenna of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy Research and the School of Law, NUI Galway has several new article on RTÉ's Brainstorm portal. One discusses whether the increasing use of technical terms from "restructured mortgage" to "non-performing loans" makes the real lives of people invisible. The other looks at the 1973 Kenny report and its measures for controlling the price of building land in the interests of the common good. Why words matter when it comes to human rights and housing Could the Kenny Report solve the Irish housing crisis?

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Covid-19 requires that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights now be respected and promoted by all EU Institutions Covid-19 is a tragedy for Europe. Already, the economic fallout is transforming Member State and European Union institutions. After we cope with this human tragedy, any recovery will require significant Member State and EU aid, bailouts, and other measures – some which will be new. The question is whether, this time, State and EU aid will be granted to corporations without embedding human rights in any European recovery programmes. Now that the solidarity of the Union, itself, is at stake, EU institutions must now apply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in their economic governance and financial supervision framework. The Charter has been part of Treaty law for ten years. Housing is a fundamental right and need, on which so many other rights depend, such as health, safety, privacy and home life, as Covid-19 has so clearly shown. Access to adequate and affordable housing, for all, is becoming a key test of the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Union. This is a major political issue in many Member States. Indeed, even before the pandemic, housing in many European cities had become the “wobbly pillar” of EU banking stability. This will be exacerbated following Covid-19. The EU institutional response after 2009, to protect European bank, corporate, and other assets, imposing austerity on peripheral EU Member States, did not respect, observe or promote the human or housing rights set out in the EU Charter. As we recover from this tragedy, it is perhaps a good time hold up a human rights mirror up to our EU institutions. Business as usual is no longer good enough for EU citizens. Maintaining the legitimacy of all our EU institutions is now a vital part of the recovery. To do this, we all need to see a real human and housing rights - based reboot. These 3 new Briefing Papers (funded by Open Society Foundations) provide vital information on how this can be achieved. For more information please email: Downloads Briefing Papers Summary Briefing 1 - Housing and Housing Rights in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights Briefing 2 - EU Economic Governance and Financial Supervision Briefing 3 - Integration EU Charter Housing Rights into EU Economic Governance‌ Press Release Press Release - Spanish Press Release - French Press Release - Irish Press Release - English

Friday, 31 January 2020

Dr Padraic Kenna of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy Research and the School of Law, NUI Galway has written two pieces recently for RTÉ's Brainstorm portal. One article discusses the significant human rights issues around evictions in Ireland. He also presented 3 pertinent questions to ask your would-be TD to assess their seriousness about housing & homelessness: The significant human rights issues around evictions in Ireland 3 questions to ask your would-be TD about housing

Friday, 22 March 2019

A very successful launch of ‘eConveyancing and Title Registration in Ireland' a co-edited book by Sandra Murphy, solicitor and Dr. Padraic Kenna, took place in the President’s Drawing Room in the Aula Maxima, National University of Ireland, Galway on Friday 15th March. Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy, Judge of the Supreme Court (retired) and President of the Law Reform Commission, launched the book with Dr. Charles O’Mahony as Master of Ceremonies. The book, published by Clarus Press, follows a conference held in 2017, chaired by the Honourable Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy and Mr. Justice Michael Peart and brought together national and international experts in the area of land law and conveyancing. The book represents a significant milestone in the development of a system of electronic conveyancing for Ireland.