UN Calls Attention To The Positive Role Of The Right To A Decent Home In Tackling New Zealand’s Housing Crisis

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The housing crisis is a human rights crisis in New
Zealand according to the United Nations (UN) Special
Rapporteur on adequate housing in a new
report
officially tabled over night at the UN Human
Rights Council in Geneva.

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

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt has
welcomed the report and encouraged local and central
government to seriously consider the 27 recommendations made
by the UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha.

“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.
While government has made progress on housing in New
Zealand, the findings of this report from the United Nations
confirm that problems run deep. Human rights and the UN
report can help to address the crisis.”

In a pre-recorded video
to the UN Human Rights Council welcoming the report,
Hunt used the opportunity to call for the human right to a
decent home grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be realised
in New Zealand.

“Of course, the right to a decent
home does not provide a magic solution to a complex crisis.
There is no magic solution. But human rights can help. They
are tools — so let’s use them to the advantage of
everyone in New Zealand. As the Rapporteur says, Canada has
recently recognised the right to adequate housing and
adopted a human rights approach within its national housing
policy. Why not in New Zealand?,” Hunt told the
UN.

During a visit to New Zealand from 10 to 19
February 2020, at the invitation of the Government, the UN
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Leilani Farha,
investigated housing as a human right in New Zealand. She
spoke with government officials, residents, researchers and
representatives of civil society organisations in visits to
Auckland, Christchurch, Kaitaia and Wellington.

The
findings of her visit were published in a report tabled at
the UN Human Rights Council on June 22 in Geneva. Farha
wrote that “legal protection of the right to adequate
housing remains relatively weak” in New
Zealand.

Housing has become a “speculative asset”
in New Zealand rather than a “home” wrote the Special
Rapporteur — calling attention to on-going housing
speculation due to low interest rates coupled with an
underdeveloped rental housing system with inadequate tenant
protections.

“Successive governments have not
delivered on housing for many years. 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. Ms Farha’s findings reinforce this reality,”
Hunt said.

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

“A living-framework for
understanding what the right to a decent home means in our
distinctive national context, and how it can help
individuals, communities, hapū, iwi, housing policy makers
and practitioners, is needed in New Zealand. Our new
guidelines, grounded on Te Tiriti and international human
rights law, will outline what the right to a decent home
means in the unique context of
Aotearoa.”

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