Right-to-housing referendum: Recommendations due this month on wording of vote

Minister expects Housing Commission to deliver its recommendations early in new year

The Government will receive recommendations on the wording for a referendum on a right to housing this month, clearing the way for a vote in the Coalition’s lifetime, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.

The Housing Commission has been tasked with examining the wording for any referendum on creating a constitutional right to housing and Mr O’Brien expected it would deliver its work “early in the new year”.

“It is a commitment in the programme for government to have a referendum on housing and a referendum on water and I expect us to see good on that,” he said in an interview.

The programme for government agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party commits to “referendums on housing and extending the franchise to Irish citizens living outside the State”.


Tánaiste Michaél Martin has also indicated that he would like to hold a referendum on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality, which said a vote should take place on the parts of the Constitution recognising the role of a “woman in the home”.

The growing list of issues may see the Government decide to put a series of questions to voters on a single day later in its term.

“I obviously have to bring a recommendation to Cabinet colleagues [on a referendum on housing] but I’d like it to be done while I’m in a position as housing minister – but it’s not really about me,” Mr O’Brien said.

The Housing Commission has held a public consultation and a series of engagements with experts on the question to be asked, as well as the basic question of whether there should be a constitutional amendment on housing.

In the same interview, Mr O’Brien said those who forecasted a “very significant capital underspend” in his department would be proved incorrect. He said the department would have its “capital carry-over” of 10 per cent of its budget. In a reply to a parliamentary question reported in Tuesday’s Irish Examiner, it was confirmed that the department would defer the maximum amount from its budget this year – €340 million – after capital expenditure “progressed slower than profiled” due to issues impacting the construction industry.

Mr O’Brien also said he expected the Government to attain “or be very, very close” to its overall social housing target of 10,500 homes for last year. He rejected suggestions that the Green Party had not been adequately briefed on new planning legislation to be published next week, which its Ministers objected to in December.

“We’ve had extensive briefings and contact with our Coalition partners right the way through this process,” he said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times