Housing charities have proposed an amendment to the Constitution to make access to housing a fundamental right.
The Home For Good coalition has produced a wording it says could be inserted into the Constitution without changing existing protections for private property owners.
It would be up to lawmakers or the courts to intervene if competing rights clashed.
The proposed wording says: “The State recognises, and shall vindicate, the right of all persons to have access to adequate housing. The State shall, through legislative and other measures, provide for the realisation of this right within its available resources.”
Home For Good, whose members include the Simon Communities, Focus Ireland, Threshold and Respond, says the amendment is needed to free up land for housing and protect renters.
It says too many initiatives are stymied because they might have an impact on landowners who could call on their special protection under the Constitution to block the moves.
Spokeswoman Rosemary Hennigan told the Oireachtas Housing Committee it was notable that the Government had shut businesses and restricted people’s movements in response to the Covid crisis but took very limited rent freeze and eviction ban measures.
Article 43 of the Constitution had a “chilling effect” on more substantial measures, she said.
Home For Good says owner-occupiers have nothing to fear from the amendment.
“An owner-occupier will have the right to private property, the right to housing and the right to inviolability of the dwelling to protect their home.
“None of these are absolute, but it is worth stressing that a person who lives in a home that they own will, if anything, have their rights strengthened,” it says.
Their wording is similar to that in the Right to a Home Bill introduced by Sinn Fein TD Eoin Ó Broin.
Mr Ó Broin said a constitutional right to housing would not by itself solve the housing crisis but it would force the Government to rethink policy and legislation.
The Programme for Government commits to a referendum but Mr Ó Broin said he was concerned as it does not specify the vote would be on the “constitutional right” to housing.
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has given no commitment on the timing of a referendum except that it will not be next year.