Church asked to identify property that could be used for housing

church property for housing

The Irish Government has asked the Catholic Church to identify property it owns that could be used to tackle the housing crisis.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien made the request to the Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, in a recent letter.

It comes as work continues to finalise the Government’s Housing for All plan.

The plan will seek to provide more than 33,000 new homes per year by 2025. It is set to be launched later this week.

Speaking last week, Mr O’Brien said the plan will deliver social housing in Ireland “on a scale never seen before”.

He also said the multi-annual housing plan will be fully funded. There would be a “massive emphasis on affordable housing”.

The Minister emphasised how identifying land banks and vacant buildings for homes will be a vital part of the Government’s future housing plan.

In his letter, the Minister acknowledged the church’s independence in managing its property portfolio and how addressing the housing crisis is primarily the State’s duty.

A spokesman for Archbishop Martin said he would, on receiving the letter, “consider its content carefully. In consultation with his brother bishops, he will reflect on it during the autumn general meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in October”.

Mr O’Brien highlighted previous remarks by the Most Rev Martin that “radical steps” need to be taken on housing.

O’Brien also pointed to comments by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, about the need for national engagement with “a significant housing crisis”.

The archbishop’s spokesman said, “The housing and homelessness crisis is a key social justice challenge of this generation”.

“Catholic social teaching recognises that housing is a universal human right, with corresponding responsibilities on societies to honour that right,” he added.

“Therefore, we must all work towards resolving this crisis in the interest of the common good. In recent years, the faith sector has been particularly vocal in calling for radical action from the State to alleviate the housing and homelessness problem.”

Asked if he wanted the State to have first call on land the church has available for sale, O’Brien responded: “I want to have the discussions with them first. In fairness, I have seen that some approved housing bodies have had some good engagement with the churches.”

Land and property owned by the Catholic Church in Ireland have previously been valued in the billions. Still, the ownership is not straightforward due to each parish being a separate legal entity in civil and canon law.

In October 2018, after the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland, the Catholic bishops launched A Room at the Inn? This is a pastoral letter on housing and homelessness that called for housing to be recognised “as a human right” and “should be safe, affordable and appropriate”.

It said, “provision of housing cannot be left solely to the market”. It “should not be treated as any other commodity”.


Irish Times

Irish Times

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