Housing is a Human Right!

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This page helps support work to shift local debates towards a human right to housing framework. Most policy debates assume that markets are the best mechanism for providing housing. But we have ample evidence of the failures of markets to provide housing and other basic needs. What does it mean to treat housing as a human right rather than a commodity? How can we insist that politicians treat our communities as our homes and not as real estate?

U.N. to U.S. Government: Do Better on Housing-In blistering letter, U.N. special rapporteur slams the U.S. government and international companies for violating human rights through the excessive financialization of the housing market. Shelterforce- June 3, 2019

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Blasts Governments and Corporations for Human Rights Failures (March 2019)

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, recently directed letters to governments and corporate leaders around the world, pointing out how prevailing policies violate international human rights obligations.

She cites the following violations in her letter to the United States:

  1. Financial supports and tax breaks that encourage the institutional investment in housing undermine government’s responsibility under international law to ensure access to adequate housing for the most vulnerable populations.
  2. Failure to encourage sub-national governments to enact legislation to ensure adequate supplies of affordable housing, such as rent control and policies linking housing prices with minimum wage regulations.
  3. Disproportionately impacting African American households and other minority groups, contrary to the U.S. government’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Her letter goes on to conclude:
"To address the issue of financialization and its impact on the enjoyment of the right to housing, your Government must develop policies and laws that include a full range of taxation, regulatory and planning measures in order to re-establish housing as a human right, promote an inclusive housing system, prevent speculation and limit the extraction of profits at the expense of tenants. This will require a transformation of the relationship between your Government and the financial sector, whereby human rights implementation becomes the overriding goal." (emphasis added)

Report to UN Human Rights Council 2019: Access to Justice for the Right to Housing

  • Access to Justice for the Right to Housing- In her 2019 report to the UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Ms. Leilani Farha examined access to justice for the right to housing, noting how people are denied the right to housing due to a lack of remedies that are accessible to vulnerable groups. States are obligated to progressively realize the right to housing, and Farha identifies 10 key principles which States must satisfy to ensure that all components of the right to housing are subject to effective remedies. Download PDF