Housing as a Human Right
Human rights are established through international treaties and customary international law. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises the right of everyone to adequate housing. Australia has voluntarily signed on to the ICESCR and is therefore obligated to protect the rights of all Australians to adequate housing.
- Housing rights in the ICESCR include ‘the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself [sic] and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions’. [i]
- Housing rights are further developed by the UN in terms of legal security of tenure; availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; affordability; habitability; accessibility; location; and cultural adequacy.
- Article 2(1) of the ICESCR states that each State party undertakes to: ‘take steps… to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of the rights recognised in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures’. [ii]
- In 2006, Miloon Kothari, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, reported that Australia failed to meet its human rights obligations. He noted that the Government had not adopted a comprehensive framework to address the lack of affordable housing, inadequate housing for Indigenous Australians and high rates of homelessness. Kothari recommended that the Government incorporate human rights and the right to adequate housing into national legislation . [iii]
- In 2010, James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, welcomed the Australian Government’s National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing, but expressed concern that it promotes individual land tenure over communally held lands and diminished indigenous control of their land. [iv]
- Housing is a Human Right Project , Victorian Council of Social Service
Last update 27 March 2013
Nicholson, Dan. 2004. The Human Right to Housing in Australia, VCOSS, Shelter Victoria, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE),and Women’s Housing Ltd.
[ii] Nicholson, Dan. 2004. The Human Right to Housing in Australia, VCOSS, Shelter Victoria, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE),and Women’s Housing Ltd.
[iii] Kothari, Miloon (2007) Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, UN Human Rights Council: Geneva.
[iv] Anaya, James (2010) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Addendum: The situation of indigenous peoples in Australia, UN Human Rights Council: Geneva.
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