December 17, 2017

Universal Right to Housing

United NationsAccording to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 25(1), 1948): 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. (Emphasis ours)

From the COHRE (Center on Housing Rights and Evictions – no longer in existence) website:

Adequate housing is fundamental to survival and to living a dignified life with peace and security. Without adequate housing, employment is difficult to secure and maintain, physical and mental health is threatened, education is impeded, violence is more easily perpetrated, privacy is impaired and relationships are strained.

Despite the centrality of housing in everyone’s life few human rights are violated as frequently as housing rights. In every country throughout the world – North and South – women, men and children, particularly those living in poverty, are forced to sleep rough, to live on pavements, in slums, parks, cars, cages, on rooftops, under bridges or to “squat” in abandoned buildings or on land owned by others. For those fortunate enough to have a home, all too frequently these places may provide some protection from the elements, but remain grossly inadequate, lacking potable water, proper drainage and sewage systems, ventilation/heat, electricity and access to basic social services. All of these denials of housing rights are intensified in situations of armed conflict or in the face of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

No one really knows for sure, but the United Nations estimates that over 100 million people worldwide are without a place to live and that more than one billion people worldwide are inadequately housed.

From the US Human Rights Network website:

The US Human Rights Network was formed to promote US accountability to universal human rights standards by building linkages between organizations, as well as individuals, working on human rights issues in the United States. The Network strives towards building a human rights culture in the United States that puts those directly affected by human rights violations, with a special emphasis on grassroots organizations and social movements, in a central leadership role. The Network also works towards connecting the US human rights movement with the broader US social justice movement and human rights movements around the world.

US Human Rights Network core principles:

  • Human rights are interdependent and universal
  • Human rights include civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights
  • Human rights are protected through building social movements
  • Human rights movements must ensure leadership by those directly affected
  • Human rights advocacy must always respect the diversity within communities
  • Human rights organizations must be financially responsible and accountable

The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is organized around a caucus structure. Caucuses function as working groups that share information, identify strategies and capacity building needs, as well as explore potential collaborations.

The Housing Caucus aims to use human rights law and strategies to address the severe housing crisis and inequity that exists in the US – and that directly contributes to homelessness for some 3 million Americans and causes over 12 million households to suffer severe housing problems – including doubling up and inadequate conditions. Further, despite international law recognizing the right to housing – including documents ratified by the US – the US has taken minimal steps to implement this right and, indeed, is now taking backward steps that threaten many more with hardship. The caucus is composed of groups representing public housing residents, lawyers, and grassroots advocates organized to address this gap. Find out more about this caucus through:

USHRN Housing Caucus Representatives:

Caucus Representative
Maria Foscarini
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty