The right to adequate housing

Embodied in international human rights text

The right to adequate housing is embodied in numerous international human rights text. Links to texts are available below

Adequate housing and refugees

August 2005

UN adopts new Global Standard which demands Return of confiscated Refugee Land and Housing.
It is the natural wish of many refugees and displaced persons to one day return to their former homes or places of residence once it is safe to do so. Often, however, they are unable to do so. Lands and dwellings formerly home to the displaced may have been intentionally destroyed or, where the home remains intact, are commonly occupied by unlawful secondary occupants making the restitution of their former property  difficult or impossible.

UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights recently endorsed ‘Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons’ and encouraged their application and implementation by States, intergovernmental organisations, and other relevant actors. The Principles represent the culmination of a four-year long study by the Sub-Commission, led by its Special Rapporteur Mr Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

The Principles provide important guidance to all relevant actors, national and international, in addressing the legal and technical issues surrounding housing, land and property restitution in situations where displacement has led to persons being arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of their former homes, lands, properties or places of habitual residence.

The Principles were developed in collaboration with international organisations including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as non-governmental organisations such as the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE).


To read more and learn about the right to adequate housing

Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living
Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a Component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. By Raquel Rolnik 2013.

Holding On – Security of Tenure – Types, Policies, Practices and Challanges
Research Paper prepared for the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. By Geoffrey Payne and Alain Durand-Lasserve 2013.

Security of Tenure
“Legal and Judical Aspects”. Research Paper prepared for the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. By Bret Thiele 2013.

The Right to Adequate Housing
Fact sheet on the right to adequate housing, 2009.
For paper in french, click here
For paper in spanish, click here
For paper in chinese, click here!

The Right to Adequate Housing Toolkit
By United Nations of Human Rights – Office of the High Commissioner, 2012.

UN Special Rapporteur
“The simple truth is that homelessness is the failure of states to implement the right to housing. And they do so with impunity.” By Leilani Fahra, 2015.

The rights to adequate housing embodied in human rights texts

Universal Declaration of Human rights

(UN Assembly 1948) “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-beeing for himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing, and the medical care and necessary social services… (Article 25.1)

Convention on the Rights of the Child

(1989) “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondance ,…
(Article 16.1)
“States Parties , in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents…provide material assistance and support programmes, particulary with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.” (Article 27.3)

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

(1979) “States Parties shall undertake all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure….in particular, shall ensure to such women the right…h) to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation…” (Article 14.2)

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

(1966) “The State parties to the present Covenant the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The states…” (Article 11.1)
Ratified by 106 states, including all EU countries. Six Member States, Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands have enshrined the right to adequate housing in their national constitutions. In Belgium and in France, specific laws ( Law Onkelinx and Law Besson) have been passed.

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

(1951) provides that: “As regards housing, the Contracting States, insofar as the matters regulated by laws or regulations or is subject to the control of public authorities, shall accord refugees lawfully staying in their territory…” (Article 21)

The UN Habitat Agenda, Istanbul

1996. Chapter IV. § 8  Adequate shelter for all
“Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the right to adequate housing has been recognized as an important component of the right to an adequate standard of living. All Governments without exception have a responsibility in the shelter sector…”
§ 68 g “Promote the supply of affordable rental houses and the legal rights and obligations of both tenants and owners.”
§ 72 h “Develop, as appropriate, flexible instruments for the regulation of housing markets, including the rental market, taking into account the special needs of vulnerable groups.”
§ 81 f ” Encourage the private sector to mobilize resources to meet varying housing demands, including rental housing, maintenance and rehabilitation

The Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements

(1976) This declaration reiterates the principles of the Univ. Decl. of Human Rights and calls for human settlement policies to be in conformity with universal human rights.
“Adequate shelter and services are a basic human right which places an obligation to ensure their attainment by all people…
Of special importance is the elimination of social and racial segregation, inter alia, through the creation of better balanced communities which blend different social groups, occupations, housing, and amenities.” (Section III, 8)

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

(1965) obliges states “to prohibit end eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right to everyone,…(e)…(iii) the right to housing”. (Article 5 (e) (iii)

International Convention on Civil and Political Rights

(Article 17.1)

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

(Article 43.1)

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