Guidelines for the implementation of the right to adequate housing


Published
26 December 2019
Author
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Presented
To the Human Rights Council at its 43rd session (24 February–20 March 2020)

Summary

The Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Ms. Leilani Farha, has documented in her thematic and country visit reports, the nature and extent of the global housing crisis. To assist States and other stakeholders in responding to this crisis, her final report to the Human Rights Council is devoted to an articulation of guidelines which outline key elements needed for the effective implementation of the right to housing. These guidelines are based on existing human rights standards and recommendations the Special Rapporteur submitted over the last years to Member States in her official reports.

Guidelines

The sixteen Guidelines for the Implementation on the Right to Adequate Housing contain under each guideline specific implementation measures for States, public authorities, and regional and local governments. Below is a summary of selected key provisions. The full text of the guidelines is available in all six UN languages here.

Guideline No. 1. Guarantee the right to housing as a fundamental human right linked to dignity and the right to life

  • States, including their judiciaries, must ensure that the right to adequate housing is recognized and enforceable as a fundamental human right through applicable constitutional and legislative provisions or through interpretations of interdependent rights such as the right to life.
  • The right to housing should be defined as the right to live in a home in peace, security and dignity, and include security of tenure, availability of services, affordability, habitability, accessibility, appropriate location and cultural adequacy.

Guideline No. 2. Take immediate steps to ensure the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing in compliance with the standard of reasonableness.

  • States must recognize the progressive realization of the right to housing as a legal obligation under domestic law, employing the reasonableness standard developed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which means that States have an obligation to fulfil the right to housing for all as swiftly and efficiently as possible;
  • Measures taken must be deliberate, concrete and targeted towards the fulfilment of the right to housing within a reasonable time frame. States must allocate sufficient resources and prioritize the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals or groups living in precarious housing conditions and ensure transparent and participatory decision-making.

Guideline No. 3. Ensure meaningful participation in the design, implementation and monitoring of housing policies and decisions

  • The right to free and meaningful participation in housing policies must be guaranteed in law and include the provision of necessary institutional and other supports;
  • Affected individuals must be able to influence the outcome of decision-making processes based on knowledge of their rights and have access to relevant information and sufficient time to consult; socioeconomic, linguistic, literacy and other barriers to participation must be addressed.
  • Participation in the design, construction and administration of housing should reflect the diversity of communities and ensure that the needs of all residents are represented. Equal participation must be ensured for women, informal and homeless residents, persons with disabilities and other groups experiencing discrimination or marginalization.

Guideline No. 4. Implement comprehensive strategies for the realization of the right to housing

  • Housing strategies must identify the State’s obligations to be realized progressively, based on clear goals and timelines for achieving specific outcomes and the right to adequate housing for all in the shortest possible time.
  • Strategies should provide coherence and coordination in all relevant policy areas, particularly urban planning, land regulation, taxation and finance, social benefits and services.

Guideline No. 5. Eliminate homelessness in the shortest possible time and stop the criminalization of persons living in homelessness

  • States should provide access to safe, secure and dignified emergency accommodation, with necessary supports and without discrimination on any grounds, including migration status, nationality, gender, family status, sexual identity, age, ethnic origin, disability, dependence on alcohol or drugs, criminal record, outstanding fines or health. States should take special measures to protect the rights of children in street situations.
  • Individuals and families should be provided access to adequate permanent housing so as not to be compelled to rely on emergency accommodation for extended periods.
  • States should prohibit and address discrimination on the ground of homelessness or other housing status and repeal all laws and measures that criminalize or penalize homeless people or behaviour associated with being homeless, such as sleeping or eating in public spaces. The forced eviction of homeless persons from public spaces and the destruction of their personal belongings must be prohibited. Homeless persons should be equally protected from interference with privacy and the home, wherever they are living.

Guideline No. 6. Prohibit forced evictions and prevent evictions whenever possible

  • Forced evictions as defined under international human rights law must be prohibited in all circumstances, regardless of ownership or tenure status of those affected. Victims of forced evictions must receive adequate compensation, reparation and access to housing or productive land as appropriate.
  • National laws governing evictions must be compliant with human rights norms, including the principle of respect for human dignity and the general principles of reasonableness, proportionality and due process, and should equally apply to those living in homeless encampments.
  • In instances of mortgage foreclosure or rent arrears, evictions should only occur as a last resort and after a full exploration of alternative means to resolve outstanding debt, such as through emergency housing benefits, debt rescheduling or, if required, relocation to more affordable housing units meeting adequacy standards.

Guideline No. 7. Upgrade informal settlements incorporating a human rights-based approach

  • Efforts to upgrade housing should be community-led, inclusive, enabling and provide for rights-based participation and accountability in terms of design and implementation. Upgrading efforts should ensure that residents have continued access to their livelihoods and support the economic development of the community, integrating residents’ skills and labour whenever possible. Measures must be in place to ensure that upgraded housing remains affordable.
  • States should uphold the right to remain in situ whenever possible and desired by residents. Relocation should only occur if agreed to by residents and after all other options have been explored through meaningful consultation with and the participation of residents.

Guideline No. 8. Address discrimination and ensure equality

  • States must prohibit all forms of discrimination in housing by public or private actors and guarantee not only formal but also substantive equality, which requires taking positive measures to address housing disadvantages and ensure equal enjoyment of the right to housing.
  • The right to equality requires that housing and related social programmes be non-discriminatory in their effect. It also requires that such programmes be adequate to alleviate the effects of discrimination against marginalized groups and address their unique circumstances.

Guideline No. 9. Ensure gender equality in housing and land

  • The independent right of women to security of tenure, irrespective of their family or relationship status, should be recognized in national housing laws, policies and programmes. In that regard, States should amend or repeal, as appropriate, provisions in family, inheritance and other relevant laws that restrict women’s access to housing and land title.
  • Women should be guaranteed equal access to credit, mortgages, home ownership and rental housing, including through subsidies, to ensure that their lower incomes do not exclude them from housing.
  • In situations of household violence, legislation should ensure that, regardless of whether a woman has title, formal ownership or tenancy rights, she is able to remain in her own home where appropriate and have the perpetrator removed.
  • Women should have a guaranteed right to participate in all aspects of housing-related policymaking, including housing design and construction, community development and planning, and transportation and infrastructure.

Guideline No. 10. Ensure the right to adequate housing for migrants and internally displaced persons 

  • States must ensure the equal enjoyment of the right to housing without discrimination for all internally displaced persons and all migrants, regardless of documentation, in conformity with international human rights and humanitarian law. Reception and other centres for migrants must meet standards of dignity, adequacy and protection of the family and other requirements of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Migrant children should never be separated from their parents or guardians, and families that have been separated by displacement should be reunited as quickly as possible.
  • Any differential treatment in qualifying for different types of housing based on immigration status must be reasonable and proportional, and not compromise the protection of the right to housing for all people within the State’s territory or jurisdiction.

Guideline No. 11. Ensure the capacity and accountability of local and regional governments for the realization of the right to adequate housing

  • The obligations of local and regional governments to implement the right to housing within clearly delineated areas of responsibilities must be established in legislation.
  • Local and regional governments should implement human rights-based housing strategies, consistent with those implemented at the national level and establish their own monitoring and accountability mechanism. States must ensure that local or regional housing strategies are adequately resourced and that local governments have the capacity to implement them.
  • The right to housing should be incorporated into relevant municipal laws, plans and programmes.

Guideline No. 12. Ensure the regulation of businesses in a manner consistent with State obligations and address the financialization of housing

  • States must regulate business in order to prevent investments having any negative impacts on the right to housing, including by: Preventing any privatization of public or social housing that would reduce the capacity of the State to ensure the right to adequate housing; Maintaining a rental regulatory framework that preserves security of tenure and affordable housing for tenants, including through rent caps, controls or rent freezes where needed; Imposing taxes on residential real estate and land speculation to curb the short-term resale of properties and on residential real estate left vacant.
  • States should support the important role that households play in producing and upgrading their own housing by ensuring access to land, including through collective or cooperative ownership, commons and other alternative forms of tenure and affordable and sustainable materials.

Guideline No. 13. Ensure that the right to housing informs and is responsive to climate change and address the effects of the climate crisis on the right to housing

  • The right to adequate housing should be integrated into strategies for the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, as well as in planning, preparing and implementing strategies for addressing climate change displacement. States should ensure that these strategies do not undermine or impede the realization of the right to adequate housing;
  • In situations where communities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and climate change-related disasters, such as those living on or near waterways and shorelines, priority should be given to adaptation measures to preserve existing communities.

Guideline No. 14. Engage in international cooperation to ensure the realization of the right to adequate housing

  • States should recognize international cooperation as a firm legal obligation where it is necessary for the realization of the right to housing.
  • The role of international financial institutions and of development, humanitarian and other international organizations should be aligned with the promotion of the realization of the right to housing. Development banks and financial institutions should establish safeguard policies covering all aspects of the right to adequate housing

Guideline No. 15. Ensure effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms

  • Independent monitoring bodies should be mandated and properly resourced to monitor the realization of the right to housing in a transparent and participatory manner. They should have the capacity to hear complaints from concerned people or groups, undertake visits, conduct investigations, commission surveys and convene public hearings to gather information.
  • Monitoring progress on the implementation of the right to housing should be focused on assessing compliance with the obligation to progressively realize the right. It should include the collection of qualitative and quantitative data related to dignity and the experience of rights holders with respect to all aspects of the right to housing, including security of tenure, availability of services, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location, cultural adequacy, homelessness and evictions.

Guideline No. 16. Ensure access to justice for all aspects of the right to housing

  • Access to justice for the right to housing should be ensured by all appropriate means, through courts, administrative tribunals, human rights institutions and informal or customary community-based justice systems. Hearings and other procedures should be timely, accessible, procedurally fair, enable full participation of affected individuals and groups and ensure effective remedies within a reasonable time frame. Where effective remedies rely on administrative or quasi-judicial procedures, recourse to courts should also be available;
  • Access to justice should be ensured for all components and dimensions of the right to housing that are guaranteed under international human rights law, covering not just the right to a physical shelter, but to a home in which to live in security, peace and dignity; not just protection from eviction or other State action, but also from State neglect and inaction and failure to take reasonable measures to progressively realize the right to housing.

Read the full text of the Guidelines in all six UN languages.

Infographic in English

Resolution

The Human Rights Council adopted on 19 June 2020 resolution 43/14 welcoming the work of the Special Rapporteur and taking note of the Guidelines for the implementation of the right to adequate housing. The resolution called upon States among other:

  • To take urgent measures to address inadequate housing and to improve the living circumstances of persons residing in informal settlements, in compliance with international human rights law;
  • To take the measures necessary to curb factors that result in a lack of affordable housing, such as housing speculation and the “financialization of housing”;
  • To take the right to adequate housing into account in strategies for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change;
  • To consider adopting national programmes and legislation compliant with human rights law and due process and with respect for human dignity and proportionality, to prevent, avoid and reduce evictions, and to promote affordable housing for all;
  • to take all measures necessary to eliminate legislation that criminalizes homelessness, and to take positive measures with a view to prevent and eliminate homelessness by adopting and implementing laws, administrative orders, cross-sectional strategies and programmes at all levels that are, among others, gender-, age- and disability responsive and based on international human rights law;
  • To provide, in an accessible, affordable, timely and effective manner, an effective remedy and equal access to justice and administrative procedures in complementing judicial recourses for all for violations and abuses of the right to adequate housing.

Methodology

In October 2019 the Special Rapporteur invited all States, United Nation bodies and agencies, national human rights institutions, human rights experts and civil society organizations to provide comments on the draft guidelines. In addition, a public consultation took place in November 2019 in Geneva, to which representatives of States, UN agencies and bodies, National Human Rights Institutions and civils society had been invited and in Durban/South Africa during the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders. The guidelines have also been informed by consultations for various earlier thematic reports published by the Special Rapporteur, such as reports on access to justice, homelessness, informal settlements, national housing strategies, the role of local governments, financialization, the relationship of the right to life and the right to adequate housing, and the right to adequate housing of persons with disabilities and for indigenous peoples.

Inputs received

States

National Human Rights Institutions and International Organizations

Civil Society