The right to housing is not just a rallying cry. It, like human rights more generally, offers concrete standards that can be implemented and measured for progress. The results can be transformative and can shift us away from charity toward social justice.
The right to adequate housing
Housing is the basis of stability and security for an individual or family. The centre of our social, emotional and sometimes economic lives, a home should be a sanctuary; a place to live in peace, security and dignity.
Increasingly viewed as a commodity, housing is most importantly a human right. Under international law, to be adequately housed means having secure tenure – not having to worry about being evicted or having your home or lands taken away. It means living somewhere that is in keeping with your culture, and having access to appropriate services, schools, and employment.
Too often violations of the right to housing occur with impunity. In part, this is because at the domestic level housing is rarely treated as a human right. The key to ensuring adequate housing is the implementation of this human right through appropriate government policy and programmes, including national housing strategies.
Focus of the Mandate 2014-2017
Deeply concerned by the large and widening gap between the standards that have been developed on the right to housing, the Special Rapporteur will focus her work on how international human rights norms on the right to housing can be transformed into domestic law and policy. Particular attention will be given to some of the most vulnerable populations: women, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, Indigenous peoples and people living in poverty.
Thematically, the Special Rapporteur will focus on several issues of importance including resource allocation and market influence on housing, the interdependence of rights vis a vis the right to housing- particularly the right to life, homelessness, the right to housing in the context of the post-2015 agenda and Habitat III, and equality and non-discrimination.
For more details on her priorities see the report of the UN General Assembly in 2014.
Special Rapporteurs are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to monitor specific rights. For more information refer to Fact Sheet N° 27: Seventeen Frequently Asked Questions about United Nations Special Rapporteurs.
ISSUE IN FOCUS
Right to life & the right to housing: interconnected & indivisible
On October 25th 2016 and on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the two human rights Covenants,Leilani presented her latest report to the General Assembly on the link between the right to life and right to housing.
The report lays out the obvious connections between housing conditions and the right to life, noting for example: the death rate among homeless people ranges from two to ten times higher than for those who are not homeless; lack of clean water and sanitation leads to illnesses that kill over 840,000 each year; 26.4 million people lose their homes through natural disasters every year. Yet, the urgency with which the right to housing is regarded, and its association with the right to life, is lacking.
In her statement to the General Assembly Leilani suggested that the lack of urgency accorded to these conditions as violations of human rights is related to the historic separation of the rights to life and the right to housing.
The report calls for a paradigm shift, “whereby it is affirmed that deprivations of the right to adequate housing are not just programme failures or policy challenges but human rights violations of the highest order, depriving those affected of the most basic human right to dignity, security and life itself.”
Her report references regional and domestic jurisprudence that connects the rights, ensuring access to justice for those experiencing homelessness and grossly inadequate housing, according the highest legal priority to these conditions. Its conclusion urges civil society, funders, UN human rights bodies, lawyers and judges to introduce a more integrated approach to these rights.
Read her full report here.