WelCom March 2020:
‘Our housing problem is a human rights problem’ says visiting UN expert
New Zealand’s housing problem is a human rights crisis of significant proportions, says a United Nations expert in a statement she released during her visit to New Zealand.
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, was visiting New Zealand in February at the invitation of the current and previous governments. She met with government ministers and officials, mayors and councils, iwi, economists, community housing advocates and others in the sector.
‘What’s happening here is not actually a housing crisis. What you have happening here is a human rights crisis,’ Leilani Farha said.
‘A more ambitious, innovative and courageous approach is necessary to solve the housing problem. The “human-rights crisis” has impacted the most marginalised people in New Zealand,’ she noted.
These include Māori, Pasifika, those from the LGBT community, immigrants, single parents and people with disabilities.
‘When one in every hundred people is homeless, half of whom are under 25 years; when thousands are living in vehicles or housed in motels provided by the State; when houses are in such disrepair that they cause otherwise preventable illness and disease; and when middle-income earners are finding it difficult to afford and access and or rent a home, the result is not just a housing crisis, it is a human rights crisis of significant proportions,’ she said.
‘These conditions indicate not only violations of the right to housing, but also the right to health, security and life.’
In her opinion, Farha said the root of the issue was a speculative housing market that had been supported by successive Governments, who had promoted home ownership as a form of investment.
It was only recently that the provision of social housing restarted and more adequate tenant protection was introduced. However, the Government can still do more, Farha said, such as imposing a Capital Gains Tax, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled out under her leadership. One was considered last year but was ruled out after governing parties were unable to come to a consensus. Rent freezes, innovative uses of rental homes and tighter regulation of short-term rental platforms was also suggested by Farha.
‘A human rights crisis demands a human rights response. The Government must recognise in national law that housing is a fundamental human right requiring legal protection. In my view, New Zealand must also adopt a comprehensive rights-based housing strategy that focuses on structural changes and that sets short- and long-term targets and establishes monitoring and accountability mechanisms.’
She welcomed the Waitangi Tribunal undertaking a housing inquiry, which she hopes is informed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That provides a right for indigenous people to be involved in housing programmes affecting them.
‘It is time to bring human rights home so that all people in New Zealand can enjoy the right to housing.’
Leilani Farha’s statement is online at: tinyurl.com/Right-to-Housing-NZ
Source: CathNewsNZ; NewsHub