housing need, housing rights, NESC, human rights
This article examines the many approaches to defining housing need.
The principle of addressing need is central to modern social
welfare systems and social housing provision. The objective of meeting need is
widely cited as the justification for State action in key areas of social
welfare, health and housing law and policy. Yet, this seemingly common term is
rarely examined, except by conservative theorists and other commentators, on
grounds of being emotive and overstated in modern Ireland. In relation to
housing, there is a somewhat rudimentary equation of need with homelessness and
the need for shelter. But housing need is both an individual and socially
constructed concept. Various studies have refined these definition, but
significantly, the Irish State has altered the concept of housing need in
legislation in 2009. There are parallels between need and minimum core
obligations on States under the UN human rights instruments, although the
standards derived from these can be variable. This commonly used, but often
contested term, merits some examination.