Protecting the right to housing in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak

Housing has become the front line defense against the coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life or death situation. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, States across the world are asking and, in some cases, legislating that people “stay home”. This is based on the assumption that one’s home provides protection against contracting and spreading the virus. This is not always the case.

Approximately 1.8 billion people worldwide live in homelessness, informal settlements and grossly inadequate housing, often in overcrowded conditions, lacking access to water and sanitation – making them particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus, as they are often suffering from multiple health issues.

Call for submissions

The Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, invites States, National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organisations, UN agencies and inter-governmental entities, local governments, and others with relevant information to share contributions and inputs for his forthcoming report to the UN General Assembly in October 2020 on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the right to housing.

The report will reflect on the importance of housing adequacy to ensure protection against COVID-19 and on the transformation of the home during the pandemic into a medical shelter, work-place, child care centre, sport centre or nursery for the aged. It will analyse measures taken to prevent and stop evictions of tenants and homeowners during and in the aftermath of the crisis and to protect various groups at risk of marginalization, including persons living in situation of homelessness and in informal settlements. The report will also reflect on safety of children, women, older persons and persons with disabilities at their respective place of living. Mr. Rajagopal will analyse to what extent emergency measures implemented may have had (unintended) discriminatory outcomes and map out emerging good practices to counter them by local and national governments.

Finally the report will analyse medium and long term interventions that are required to protect during and after the crisis the right to adequate housing for all, to realise SDG 11, to end homelessness and to address widespread lack of security of tenure, housing unaffordability and housing inadequacy.

To inform his report the Special Rapporteur would like to receive contributions and views from States, regional and national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisation, UN agencies, academic institutions, local governments, or other relevant stakeholders. In order to collect information a joint questionnaire with fellow Special Rapporteurs on COVID-19 has been developed, which is available in English, French and Spanish.

Please feel free to limit responses to particular areas or priorities and to provide other information that you consider important. Responses and submissions should be sent to srhousing@ohchr.org (cc: registry@ohchr.org by 19 June 2020. In order to facilitate processing and ensure accessibility, submissions in Word format in English, French or Spanish are appreciated. It is kindly requested to limit responses and submissions to 4,500 words and to include hyperlinks to relevant documents, statistical data, public regulations and legislation providing more detailed information.

All responses and submissions received in accessible format will be published on the webpages of participating Special Procedures, except if confidentiality of the submission is explicitly requested.

A shorter online questionnaire containing questions of particular interest of the Special Rapporteur is also available here.

COVID-19 Guidance Notes:

  • Prohibition of evictions
    English | French | Spanish    --  Video
  • Protecting Residents in Informal Settlements
    English | French | Spanish    --  Video
  • Protection for those living in Homelessness
    English | French | Spanish    --  Video
  • Protecting renters and mortgage payers
    English | French | Spanish    --  Video
  • Protecting housing from financialization and building back a better future
    English | French | Spanish

Further resources: