Discrimination and Inequality in Housing in Ireland Set Out in New Research

Human Rights and Equality Commission and ESRI Publish Findings

New research has shown that specific groups, including people with disabilities, lone mothers and young people, are among those facing the highest levels of discrimination and inequality in relation to housing in Ireland.

The new study entitled “Discrimination and Inequality in Housing in Ireland” draws on a range of data, including the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey, the Census, and the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC).

The research published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) examines people’s direct experiences across three measures:   experience of discrimination while searching for housing; whether certain groups experience poorer housing conditions; and the prevalence of homelessness across different groups.

Some of the key findings include:

Young people are more likely to report discrimination in relation to housing than older age groups. Those aged between 18 and 34 are six times more likely to be discriminated against compared to those aged over 65, even after other factors such as education, employment and housing tenure are taken into account.

People with disabilities are more than twice as likely to report discrimination relating to housing and over 1.6 times more likely to live in poor conditions, such as living in damp housing, lacking central heating or living in an area with neighbourhood problems. People with disabilities are also particularly over-represented in the homeless population: more than one in four homeless people have a disability.

Lone parents are particularly disadvantaged. 60% of homeless families are headed by lone mothers. In addition, lone parents experience high levels of discrimination in accessing housing and live in poorer quality housing, including poor neighbourhood environments.

Children have been particularly disadvantaged by the recent surge in homelessness and are now shown to make up 29 per cent of the homeless population.

Travellers have a high risk of being homeless; while they represent less than 1% of the population they make up 9% of the homeless population. Travellers are also almost 10 times more likely to report discrimination in access to housing.

People on housing support payments emerge as more likely to experience housing deprivation and over-crowding compared to other people in the private rented sector.

The report’s analysis includes lessons from the findings for Ireland:

  • The provision of affordable housing for disadvantaged groups - addressing housing deprivation, over-crowding and homelessness among minority groups is clearly dependent on tackling broader supply issues, including affordability. Increasing the supply of social housing is critical for disadvantaged households.
  • Security of tenure – disadvantaged groups continue to be concentrated in the private rented sector. To date there has been no formal evaluation of the effectiveness and enforcement of new laws to improve security of tenure.
  • Housing quality – there is a need for continued enforcement of housing standards regulation, especially where state funding is being provided to private landlords. There is also an obligation on local authorities to maintain adequate standards in social housing, as recently upheld by the European Commission on Social Rights in a complaint taken against Ireland.
  • Tackling discrimination – new legal protection against discrimination for those in receipt of housing assistance is being availed of by tenants, but there is a need to monitor the ongoing experience of those in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in the currently stressed housing market.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Inequality and discrimination relating to housing has a disproportionate impact on certain groups, and represents a crisis within a crisis. 

“If policy makers are to find a sustainable solution to the current housing crisis, they need to look at the experience of single parents, people with a disability, members of minority ethnic groups, and people in receipt of housing support payments, to name but a few. 

“Addressing housing supply, and in particular the supply of social housing, is essential.  However, a one-size-fits-all approach will not meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.  Both the private and public sectors need to step up to their obligations under equality and human rights law if we are to break the cycle of inequality and discrimination in housing.”

Co-author of the report, Dr. Helen Russell of the ESRI stated:

 “Access to adequate housing is a right protected under international law and is fundamental to the quality of life of individuals and families. Reversing the steep decline in the social housing stock over recent decades is essential for tackling inequalities in housing and addressing the needs of groups that are found to be disadvantaged on multiple housing dimensions, including lone parents, young people, people with disabilities and minority ethnic groups. Monitoring the equality impact of housing policies is important to ensure vulnerable groups are not left behind.”