Housing rights must be central to EU’s Covid-19 response NUIG human rights expert says

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Galway Daily news Housing rights must be central to EU's Covid-19 response NUIG human rights expert says
Dr. Padraic Kenna Associate Head for Research School of Law, College of Business, Public Policy and Law, National University of Ireland, Galway Photograph by Aengus McMahon

The EU should avoid the mistakes of the 2009 crisis by ensuring that human rights, and particularly housing rights are embedded within its response to Covid-19.

That’s the view of Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUIG, who said that many other human rights depend firstly on the existence of housing rights.

“Housing is a fundamental right and need on which so many other rights depend, like health, safety, privacy and home life, as Covid-19 has so clearly shown,” Dr Kenna said.

“Access to adequate and affordable housing for all is becoming a key test of the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the Union.”

Housing is a continent wide issue, with over 80 million Europeans overburdened by housing costs he added.

One quarter of Europeans are living in overcrowded housing, while there were an estimated 700,000 homeless in 2019.

Dr Kenna warned that housing is already the “wobbly pillar” of EU banking stability, and that this will be exacerbated coming out of the Covid-19 crisis.

In three briefing papers prepared for the EU Commission, Dr Kenna says that member states responses to this crisis must apply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, especially in economic governance and financial supervision.

He said that nowhere was this more important than in the way in which housing is treated.

The three Briefing Papers will form the basis for a significant submission to the European Commission on a New Strategy for the Implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, now part of Treaty law for 10 years.

Dr Kenna also commented that a ‘business as usual’ attitude by EU institutions when it comes to responding to the Covid-19 tragedy was no longer good enough for EU citizens.

“Maintaining the legitimacy of all our EU institutions is now a vital part of the recovery we need. To do this, we all need to see a real human and housing based-reboot.”