Economic and social rights

Guidelines on the right to a decent home

The Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa was launched on August 1, 2021, along with an announcement that Te Kāhui Tika Tangata / Human Rights Commission will hold a national inquiry into housing.

“New Zealand governments have signed up to a critically important human right: the right to a decent home. For generations, they have promised to create the conditions to enable everyone to live in a decent home, but this has not happened. Successive governments have failed New Zealanders,” Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said as part of the launch.

“For many people, especially young people, the goal of an affordable, healthy, accessible home has actually become more remote. These serial governments bear a heavy responsibility for this massive human rights failure which is blighting lives and communities.”

Available formats and related files

Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa

Aratohu tika tangata ki te whai whare rawaka i Aotearoa, Te Reo

Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa, Easy Read (doc)

Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa, Easy read (pdf)

Summary of Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa

Overview of the guidelines

The purpose of the Guidelines is to clarify for individuals and communities, local and national government, what the right to a decent home means.

Our aim is to provide a clear, firm framework upon which to build and represent a significant first step enabling human rights to deepen and strengthen robust housing strategies.

The Guidelines address the unique context of Aotearoa, Te Tiriti O Waitangi, international human rights law, the importance of active and informed citizen participation, the need for constructive accountability mechanisms and more.

While the government has made progress on housing, the work across the public and private sectors lacks explicit recognition of the human right to a decent home. These guidelines are intended to address this problem

We hope the Guidelines will be used to influence public policy by providing assistance to housing providers to take human rights into account when designing and delivering housing services.  

Most importantly, the Guidelines will help to hold duty-bearers accountable for implementing the right to a decent home and thereby support a healthier and more socially just Aotearoa for individuals, families, whānau and communities.

The Guidelines have been developed in partnership with the Iwi Chairs Forum, and with the support of Community Housing Aotearoa. After consultation, the Guidelines will be finalised and adopted by our Board in the New Year. 

The Guidelines are a living framework. They will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose.

Background

The human right to adequate housing has been recognised in multiple international human rights treaties. As New Zealand is a signatory to many of these international treaties, everyone in the country has the right to adequate housing. 

Government is obliged to ensure this right is upheld. In New Zealand, the inability to obtain decent, affordable housing is one of the major barriers to an adequate standard of living. The quality of housing directly affects people’s health, particularly in the case of children and old people.

The United Nations has defined seven standards that must be met in order for housing to be adequate. 

  • Security of tenure: People have the right to know they are protected against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.
  • Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: People must be able to access services such as safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
  • Affordability: The cost of housing must not threaten or negatively affect people’s enjoyment of other rights.
  • Habitability: Housing must provide physical safety and protection against the elements, and must not negatively affect people’s health.
  • Accessibility: Disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, including the disabled, must be given full access to housing and their needs are taken into account.
  • Location: Housing must allow people to access to key facilities such as employment opportunities, healthcare centres and schools, and must not be close to polluted land.
  • Cultural Adequacy: People’s cultural identity and beliefs must be respected and taken into account.

Housing providers have responsibilities to ensure the human rights of their clients are met. As framed in international human rights law, the human right to adequate housing incorporates each of the conditions outlined in the seven standards above; thus, you are obliged as a housing provider to guarantee these conditions.

The right to housing is not specifically provided for in any New Zealand legislation, although it is addressed in a range of central government housing policies, laws and entitlements, including:

  • Building Act 2004 (including The Building Code, Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 1992)
  • Housing Improvements Regulations 1947 (under the Health Act 1956)
  • Residential Tenancies Act 1986
  • Local Government Act 1974 (where still in force)
  • Local Government Act 2002
  • Resource Management Act 1991
  • Fire Service Act 1975.