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Outlaw housing discrimination in practice to unlock human rights for all – UN expert

NEW YORK (26 October 2021)  - Governments around the world should adopt and actually enforce laws forbidding the discrimination that prevents women, people with disabilities, refugees, minorities and others from finding and keeping adequate housing, a UN expert told the General Assembly.

“Discrimination by public and private actors – against many protected groups including children, LGBTIQ+ people, racial, ethnic, religious groups and minorities, and people living in informal settlements – is one of the most pervasive and persistent barriers to the fulfilment of the right to adequate housing,” said Balakrishnan Rajagopal, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

He made the comments in presenting a report that sets out recommendations for governments to overcome discrimination in housing. Although discrimination is outlawed in many States, in practice it continues to be a major barrier for the realization of human rights, including the right to adequate housing.

The report’s findings were based on a comprehensive survey, which resulted in more than 100 submissions that highlight that housing discrimination often goes unreported because victims lack information on their rights and where to complain, or fear retaliation from their landlords or others, and often leads to little to no accountability.

“It is important for States to regularly take stock of their legislation, regulatory framework, judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to ensure that they can rigorously prevent and protect against discrimination in housing,” Rajagopal said.

“Where such mechanisms have failed – in recent years or historically  ̶  States should implement special measures until equal access is achieved by all, in particular vulnerable groups such as women, people with disabilities, racial and other minorities, migrants and indigenous peoples,” he said.


Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal (United States of America) is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. Rajagopal took up his mandate in May 2020. He is a Professor of Law and Development at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A lawyer by training, Rajagopal is an expert on many areas of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, the UN system, and the human rights challenges posed by development activities.

Follow the Special Rapporteur’s work on Twitter: @adequatehousing

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms Mariya Stoyanova (mariya.stoyanova@un.org). 

In New York, please contact Mr. Nenad Vasic (vasic@un.org, +1 917 941-7558)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Renato Rosario De Souza (renato.rosariodesouza@un.org) or Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts. 

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