December 17, 2017

What Are Housing Rights?

UNFORTUNATELY this information came from the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, which no longer exists.  The information however should be on the UN website.

 

The United States should Ratify the ICESCR Treaty to affirm the Right to Adequate Housing: (links on page are to COHRE.org, Center on Housing Rights and Evictions)

Signed by President Carter and transmitted to the Senate in 1978, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) has not yet been ratified (the US Constitution requires a vote by 2/3 of the Senate for a treaty to be ratified and therefore legally binding on the US government).    The treaty defines the Right to Adequate Housing as well as the rights to food, health, education and social security as fundamental human rights.   Thus far, 159 nations have ratified the treaty; the US is the only major “1st world” country that has not ratified it.

Not only will ratification affirm the our nation’s commitment to supporting human rights, it will serve as a strong legal and policy basis for future human rights based legislation, such as assuring our people of their Right to Adequate Housing by a variety of program and policy tools.   US governments at all levels would retain control over how this and other materials rights are met, but the Treaty would provide a basis for ensuring that whatever policies are adopted are based on the basic rights and needs of the people.

According to International Human Rights Law:

While the majority of the world’s population lives in some form of dwelling, roughly half of the world’s population does not currently have access to the housing rights entitlements guaranteed to them under international human rights law. According to international human rights law, in order for housing to be adequate it must provide more than just four walls and a roof over one’s head; it must, at a minimum, include the following elements:

Security of Tenure

Security of tenure is one of the cornerstones of the right to adequate housing. Secure tenure protects people against arbitrary forced eviction, harassment and other threats. Most informal settlements and communities lack legal security of tenure. Hundreds of millions of people (if not more) currently live in homes without adequate secure tenure protection. Security of tenure is a key issue for all dwellers, particularly women

Adequate Services. Materials, Infrastructure

Adequate housing requires access to clean and affordable drinking water, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, sanitation and washing facilities, food storage, refuse disposal, site drainage and emergency services. When one or more of these attributes of adequate housing are not available, the right to adequate housing is not fully in place

Affordability

The housing affordability principle stipulates simply that the amount a person or family pays for their housing must not be so high that it threatens or compromises the attainment and satisfaction of other basic needs. Affordability is an acute problem throughout the world and a major reason why so many people cannot access affordable formal housing, and are forced as a result to live in informal settlements. The lack of affordable housing is also a major problem in affluent countries where individuals and families living in poverty find it increasingly difficult to find affordable adequate housing. In many developed countries, when rental housing is unaffordable, tenants’ security of tenure is threatened as they can often be legally evicted for non-payment of rent

Habitability

For housing to be considered adequate, it must be habitable. Inhabitants must be ensured adequate space and protection against the cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health or structural hazards. Hundreds of millions of the world’s dwellers reside in housing that does not meet these habitability criteria

Accessibility

Housing must be accessible to everyone. Disadvantaged groups such as the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, HIV-positive individuals, victims of natural disasters, children and other groups should be ensured some degree of priority consideration in housing law and policy to ensure their housing needs are met. In many parts of the world, laws and policies do little to address the housing needs of the most disadvantaged, instead focusing on already advantaged social groups. Additionally, in rental and housing markets, discrimination against disadvantaged groups is common and poses a significant barrier to housing access

Location

For housing to be adequate it must to allow reasonable access to employment options, health care services, schools, childcare centres and other social facilities. It must not be built on or located in polluted areas. When communities are evicted from their homes they are often relocated to remote locations lacking facilities or in polluted areas, near garbage dumps or other sources of pollution

Culturally Adequate

The right to adequate housing includes a right to reside in housing that is considered culturally adequate. This means that housing programmes and policies must take fully into account the cultural attributes of housing which allow for the expression of cultural identity and recognise the cultural diversity of the world’s population