Chief Human Rights Commissioner welcomes findings from UN independent housing expert

Chief Human Rights Commissioner welcomes findings from UN independent housing expert

February 19, 2020

Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, welcomes the release of the preliminary findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, today, and looks forward to giving her recommendations careful consideration. 

“Ms Farha’s preliminary findings clearly affirm what many of us already know in New Zealand; much more needs to be done to address the housing crisis,” says the Chief Human Rights Commissioner”, Paul Hunt.

“Our housing crisis is also a human rights crisis of significant proportions. The crisis encompasses homeownership, market renting, state housing and homelessness, as well as the punishing impact of substandard housing, especially on those most at risk of vulnerability. As Ms Farha has found, these conditions indicate violations of the right to health, security and life as well as the right to housing.”

“While the government has made significant progress on housing, it is time for New Zealand to follow the example set by Canada where its recently passed National Housing Strategy Act, affirms the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right. The Canadian law mandates the development of a strategy that takes into account key principles of a human-rights-based approach to housing,” explains Hunt.

 “Ms Farha is the world’s leading expert on housing rights, and her visit has lifted awareness of the human right to a decent home in Aotearoa. Her visit is the first to New Zealand by a UN Special Rapporteur in six years, and the government deserves credit for being open to receiving this constructive scrutiny.”

Ms Farha’s findings come after a 10-day investigation where she met with representatives from government, the Human Rights Commission and similar independent bodies, civil society organisations, NGOs, human rights experts, homeowners, renters, people living in insecure housing and homelessness, and community housing providers. 

Her visit was organised by the Government, and her investigation is independent of the Human Rights Commission. Community Housing Aotearoa, Human Rights Commission, Te Matapihi and others helped to develop the schedule for Ms Farha’s meetings with non-government agencies and individuals in Northland, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. 

“We have seen a high level of enthusiasm and interest in her visit, with strong, supportive engagement from both government, civil society organisations and individuals. Many people raised the systemic issues created by the housing crisis: a lack of affordability, accessibility and security of tenure, which is compounded for Maori, Pasifika, disabled people, single parents, LGBTQI+, immigrants, and people living in homelessness or insecure housing.”

“It’s important that the government maintains its momentum and addresses these issues. We encourage the government to consider her recommendations and address these in consultation with tangata whenua, NGOs, and civil society,” says Mr Hunt.

The Human Rights Commission is launching a new program of work this year focussed on ensuring that housing is understood as a human right for everyone: aright that can be accessed and claimed and used to hold State and private housing providers accountable. 

The first step will be to identify through a series of community-based hui, what the right to a decent home means in the unique context of Aotearoa. This work will inform the development of a set of Guidelines on the right to a decent home in Aotearoa.

The Guidelines will draw on Ms Farha’s valuable preliminary findings, as well as the experience of countries like Canada to understand what works. This work will require building on key human rights values, such as fairness, decency, equality, freedom, belonging and community, honouring Te Ao Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Guidelines will provide a critical stepping-stone towards the realisation of an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone is well housed. 

Read the UN Special Rapporteur’s media statement here.

Read the UN Special Rapporteur’s end of mission statement here.