Promoting realization of the right to adequate housing

Affirming housing rights
In the preparatory process for the Habitat II conference (1996), a handful of governments challenged the existence of a distinct human right to adequate housing, ignoring its repeated affirmation in most basic international human rights documents: the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights], article 25(1); the [International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights], article 11(1); the [Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination], article 5(e)(iii); the [Convention of the Status of Refugees], article 21; the [International Convention of the Rights of the Child] 27(3); the [International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women], article 14(2)(h). Moreover, the [Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements], the [Global Shelter Strategy] and Agenda 21 reaffirmed the human right to adequate housing.

Chapter III, Paragraph 9 of the [Habitat Agenda] contains the following commitment: "We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing, as provided for in international instruments. In this context, we recognize an obligation by governments to enable people to obtain shelter and to protect and improve dwellings and neighbourhoods. We commit ourselves to the goal of improving living and working conditions on an equitable and sustainable basis, so that everyone will have adequate shelter that is healthy, safe, secure, accessible and affordable and that includes basic services, facilities and amenities, and will enjoy freedom from discrimination in housing and legal security of tenure. We shall implement and promote this objective in a manner fully consistent with human rights standards."

The core elements of the human right to adequate housing include: security of tenure, non-discrimination in relation to housing, rights of tenants and other dwellers to organize freely, preferential access for vulnerable groups, and the development of effective remedies to protect individuals and communities against human rights violations.

One of the barriers to achieving housing rights has been the absence of a universally-recognized definition of the entitlements comprising this norm. General Comment No 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights defines this right as comprised of a variety of specific concerns which under international law are legally vested in all persons: legal security of tenure, availability of service, materials and infrastructure, affordable housing, habitable housing, accessible housing, location, culturally adequate housing.

1. The human right of every woman, man, youth and child to a secure place to live in peace and dignity is a prerequisite of social justice. Security of home is essential for people to be able to benefit from the human rights to equal access to civic services, to potable water, to a safe and healthy environment, to primary health care, to education and to gainful employment. The gaining and retention of the human right to adequate housing is essential for the security and progress of individuals and communities and thus a critical basis in society for the attainment of justice and dignity.

2. The full enjoyment of other rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association (for tenants and other community-based groups), freedom to choose one's residence, and to participate in public decision-making, is indespensable if the the right to adequate housing is to be realized and maintained by all groups in society.

Affirming rights
Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities