|Resources||Human Rights Standards||Case Studies||Consolidated Replies||Related Links|
The Right to Housing can be understood within the human rights-based framework: respect, protect, and fulfil.
It is incorrect, however, to assume that the Right to Housing implies that Governments must provide each of its citizens with land and a house. Rather, Governments are obligated to respect the Right to Housing by abstaining from carrying out or advocating the forced or arbitrary eviction of persons and groups. States must respect people’s rights to build their own dwellings and order their environments in a manner which most effectively suits their culture, skills, needs and wishes.
Government obligations to protect the housing rights of a population means that it must ensure that any possible violations of these rights by “third parties” such as landlords or property developers are prevented. Where such infringements do occur, the relevant public authorities should act to prevent any further deprivations and guarantee to affected persons access to legal remedies of redress for any infringement caused.
Lastly, the obligation to fulfil the Right to Housing is both positive and interventionary. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has asserted that identifiable governmental strategies aimed at securing the right of all persons to live in peace and dignity should be developed.
The Right to Housing is included in several international legally-binding documents. Among the most significant of these is the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (article 11.1), and General Comment 4 issued by the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR). UN HABITAT is the primary UN organisation addressing housing rights throughout the UN system.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 25.1 of the UDHR stipulates that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural (ICESCR) Article 11.1 of the ICESCR calls for States Parties to “recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”
General Comment 4: The Right to Adequate Housing The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) clarified the meaning and scope of the Right to Housing as expressed within the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in General Comment 4 (Article 11.1 of the Covenant). It provides specific criteria by which the Right to Housing can be measured: Legal security of tenure, Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure, Affordability, Habitability, Accessibility, Location, and Cultural adequacy.
General Comment 5 – paragraphs 15, 22 and 33 address the rights of persons with disabilities and the effects of disability-based discrimination on housing (paragraph 15).
General Comment 6 – paragraph 33 recalls the International Plan on Ageing’s emphasis on the psychological and social importance of housing for the elderly in addition to its physical significance as shelter.
General Comment 7 defines and addresses the topic of forced evictions and determines the circumstances under which forced evictions are permissible. It also describes the means of protection required to ensure respect for these provisions under the Covenant.
General Comment 14 – emphasizes the interdependence of the right to health and other human rights. It concludes that state obligations associated with the right to health include ensuring access to basic shelter, housing and sanitation and an adequate supply of drinking water.
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) Article 21 of this convention requires ratifying states to provide refugees with favorable treatment not less than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances, with regard to housing.
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990) Article 43 notes the right of migrant workers to access to housing, including social housing systems, and to protection against exploitation with respect to rents.
See also the following:
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living was originally established by the Commission on Human Rights in April 2000 by resolution 2000/9, and subsequently endorsed and extended by the Human Rights Council resolution 6/27 of 14 December 2007.
In the fulfilment of his or her mandate, the Special Rapporteur:
View webpage for the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing here.