New Guidelines aim to advance human right to a decent home

New Guidelines aim to advance human right to a decent home

November 17, 2020

The Human Rights Commission is seeking feedback on new draft Guidelines on the human right to a decent home in Aotearoa.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says the government has a binding human rights obligation to create conditions which permit everyone to enjoy a warm, dry, safe, accessible and affordable home.

“Human rights do not prescribe the socio-economic system required for implementation of the right to a decent home. That’s for government to decide. But whatever system is chosen, it must deliver.”

“Everyone in New Zealand knows that for many years successive governments have not delivered on housing. 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 says that human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi can help the government address effectively the housing crisis in New Zealand.

“Human rights do not provide magic solutions to complex problems, such as the housing crisis. But they have a contribution to make. When confronted with a difficult job, why not use all the tools in your workshop? The Canadian government has recently adopted a human rights approach to housing. It’s time we did, too.”

The Chief Commissioner adds that one of the problems is that there is very little awareness in national and local government of what the right to a decent home, grounded on Te Tiriti, means in the unique context of Aotearoa.

“That’s partly the Commission’s fault. We’ve not been clear enough. So, we have decided to prepare Guidelines which provide a living-framework for understanding what the right to a decent home means in our unique national context, and how it can help individuals, communities, hapū, iwi, housing policy makers and practitioners,” Hunt said.

The Commission welcomes feedback on the draft Guidelines by the close of business on Monday 21st December. Submissions can be made to [email protected] The Commission will also be undertaking consultations during this period and welcomes the opportunity to meet with people to discuss feedback.

The draft Guidelines underscore the importance of active and informed citizen participation, the need for constructive accountability mechanisms, and much more. 

“Individuals, communities, iwi and hapū will be able to use the Guidelines to hold the government to account for its promises in relation to the right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti.”

The Guidelines have been developed in partnership with the National Iwi Chairs Forum. 

“We acknowledge the right for iwi and hapū to exercise tino rangatiratanga in defining, designing and implementing the right to a decent home for tangata whenua in Aotearoa,” said Hunt. 

Dame Naida Glavish and Rahui Papa, Pou Tangata co-Chairs of the Forum endorsed the work of the Commission. 

“Our people are continually marginalised in all aspects of health and wellbeing and we look forward to partnering with the Human Rights Commission on developing this work,” Glavish said.

Prior to the drafting of the Guidelines, preliminary consultations were held with a wide range of stakeholders from June 2020 to the end of August.

The Commission and Community Housing Aotearoa convened a number of hui to seek feedback on a discussion paper and hear views from housing providers and others interested in the right to a decent home in Aotearoa.  

“We have seen the disconnect between the idea of a right to a decent home and the reality in our communities for families living in inadequate housing,” said CEO of Community Housing Aotearoa Scott Figenshow. 

Figenshow said he was pleased to have the opportunity to support the Commission in this work.

Hunt says that the Commission’s Board will adopt revised Guidelines as soon as possible in the New Year.

The adopted Guidelines will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose. 

Click here to download the Guidelines.

Click here to accessible version of the Guidelines.

Click here for more information.