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.
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.
The extent of speculation on housing has meant that, for thousands of people, the right to be properly housed has been increasingly difficult to realize. Such speculation has furthermore facilitated the development of eviction procedures which take no account of the human right to housing. The absence of appropriate control by the public administration has deprived the right of all its content. In any case, it should be recalled that the public authorities themselves very often embark on the nationalization or expropriation of settled lands without providing any compensation to those affected. Examining all these failings and finding appropriate solutions will contribute to the realization of everyone's right to adequate housing.