Eight criteria of housing rights for people have been proposed: (a) security of tenure; (b) affordability without deprivations of other basic needs; (c) accessibility in terms of access to basic infrastructure, finance on reasonable terms, social services, water sanitation facilities, refuse disposal and access to transport, to information of a technical nature, to building materials and to land at affordable and safe locations; (d) habitability in the form of protection for the physical safety of the inhabitants; (e) control and participation through community-based organizations which represented their interests; (f) freedom of choice as to where and how they wanted to live; (g) non-discrimination, in the form of the prohibition of discrimination on ground of race, ethnic origin, gender, age, social status, sexual orientation, physical disability, medical status (particularly in the case of AIDS), political or religious beliefs, class or any other grounds; and (h) legal protection in that people must have access to judicial or other legal remedies and legal aid if their housing rights were infringed.
With the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the right to adequate housing joined the body of international, universally-acceptable and universally-accepted human rights law. Since then, this right has been reaffirmed in a wide range of additional human rights instruments, each of which is relevant to distinct groups within society. No less than 12 different texts adopted and proclaimed by the united nations explicitly recognize the right to adequate housing.
The right to adequate or decent housing is based on a set of norms related to the other rights of the individual and his environment. Implementation of this right is a contribution to a people's cultural life and provides the necessary harmony between man and his habitat. Realization of the right must thus take into account the cultural and social elements of the people concerned. Importing housing models is often, if not always, destructive of that harmony.
In 1989 it was estimated that more than 1 billion people live in inadequate houses, and over 100 million live in conditions of absolute homelessness, with no shelter at all. This estimate had not changed in 1997.
The housing crisis of past decades was, for many persons and peoples, the result of a disregard for the right to adequate housing. one United Nations document stated that the difficult economic situation of many countries in the early 1980s was reflected in a rapid decline in resources available for investments and related services in the field of human settlements. National housing subsidies, rent controls and housing loans have been steadily diminishing.