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
Housing is a RIGHT, not a commodity
Housing and real estate markets worldwide have been transformed by global capital markets and financial excess. Known as the financialization of housing, the phenomenon occurs when housing is treated as a commodity – a vehicle for wealth and investment rather than a social good.
In her most recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur explores the financialization of housing and its detrimental impact on human rights, in particular, the right to housing. From mass forced evictions to make way for luxury developments, to nameless corporations purchasing real estate from remote boardrooms, to empty homes and people pushed out of their communities because they simply could not afford to live there, the repercussions have been felt across the globe.
With roots in the 2008 financial crisis, the impact of the shift from housing as a place to build a home, to housing as an investment has been devastating including millions of evictions as a result of foreclosures in countries most affected by the Global Economic Crisis.
In developing economies, often informal settlements or long existing neighborhoods located in ‘prime land’ are subject to evictions and displacement to make way for speculative investment. Residents are often rendered homeless, replaced by luxury housing that often stands vacant.
The vast amount of wealth has left governments accountable to investors rather than their international human rights obligations.
Global real estate represents nearly 60 per cent of the value of all global assets or $USD 217 trillion – with residential real estate comprising $USD 163 trillion or 75 per cent. This represents more than twice the world’s total GDP.
The Special Rapporteur calls for governments to ensure markets serve housing need rather then investment priorities, and reminds states that they are first and foremost accountable to human rights.
Read her full report