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Expert says key housing rights responsibility lie with local authorities

19 March 2015

There are over a billion people around the world living in inadequate housing, said Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

By inadequate, Farha means people who are homeless, or living without title to land, living with the threat of forced eviction or living without essential services such as water, electricity or sanitation. And key responsibilities for making this better, lay with local and subnational authorities, she said.

“It is my opinion that the right to adequate housing cannot be effectively implemented without the full participation of local governments,” Farha said.

Farha raised her concerns during the presentation of her report during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council. This is Farha’s first report to the Council, since taking up her duties in 2014.

Implementation Gap

The report (A/HRC/28/62),defines local and other subnational levels of government as anything from rural villages to large metropolitan areas. Increasingly the responsibility for housing and related programmes has devolved to local authorities, often without a similar transfer of resources, knowledge, capacity and accountability for human rights obligations.

Farha said that there is a gap between the international human rights standards on housing and the daily life of people around the globe. In her view, lack of implementation of existing standards developed regarding the right to the housing is a matter of real concern.

“If the implementation gap is to be addressed – and from a human rights point of view, it must be – we have to identify and understand the challenges that face those who are responsible for implementing housing and related programs and explore strategies and opportunities for change.”

The report makes a number of recommendations for various stakeholders to deal with the implementation gap. These include: having human rights standards and their implementation communicated to local governments; ensuring decentralization is guided and informed by the right to adequate housing; and encouraging States to guarantee access to justice and effective remedies for violations of the right to adequate housing.

19 March 2015