Housing in New Zealand 'a human rights crisis', UN report says

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Housing in New Zealand is viewed as a “speculative asset” rather than a home, and has become a human rights crisis, according to a United Nations report.

The report by UN special rapporteur Leilani Farha on adequate housing was tabled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, following her visit to New Zealand in February last year.

Housing speculation, a lack of affordable housing options, limited protection for tenants, substandard housing, the absence of an overarching Te Tiriti (treaty) and human rights based housing strategy, and a lack of adequate social housing or state subsidised housing are the main causes of the crisis, the report says.

Farha said housing had become a “speculative asset” in New Zealand rather than a “home”, citing low interest rates coupled with an underdeveloped rental housing system with inadequate tenant protections.

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The “legal protection of the right to adequate housing remained relatively weak” in New Zealand, she said.

Housing is viewed as a speculative asset rather than a home in New Zealand, according to a UN report.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Housing is viewed as a speculative asset rather than a home in New Zealand, according to a UN report.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt welcomed the report and encouraged local and central government to seriously consider its 27 recommendations.

“The Government has binding human rights and Te Tiriti obligations to create conditions which permit everyone to enjoy a warm, dry, safe, accessible and affordable home,” Hunt said.

“While [the] Government has made progress on housing in New Zealand, the findings of this report from the United Nations confirm that problems run deep.”

There was no magic solution to the housing crisis, Hunt said.

“Successive governments have not delivered on housing for many years,” he said.

“For decades governments failed to create the conditions which permit everyone to enjoy the right to a decent home. Because of this, up and down the country families have suffered serious, avoidable hardship,” Hunt said.

The report notes Canada has recently recognised the right to adequate housing and adopted a human rights approach within its national housing policy, and Hunt called for the same approach in New Zealand.

The Human Rights Commission is set to release framework guidelines on the right to a decent home to help both duty-bearers such as local and central government, and rights-holders such as individuals, communities, iwi and hapū advance the right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti.

Farha was invited to New Zealand by the Government to investigate housing as a human right in the country. During her visit, she spoke with government officials, residents, researchers and representatives of civil society organisations in visits to Auckland, Christchurch, Kaitaia and Wellington.