Charities believe UK housing breaches human rights

  • Charities believe that the increase in housing rental costs, unhealthy conditions in homes and rising levels of homelessness mean that the UK is violating the UN commitment on homes. /images/house_and_magnifine_glass.jpg

    A group of housing charities have warned that the UK is in breach of its own United Nations human rights commitment to provide people with adequate homes as the housing crisis is so serious. They cite soaring housing rental costs, unhealthy conditions in homes, and rising levels of homelessness and warn of "profound issues of lack of supply, increasing housing costs, lack of security of tenure and homes of such poor quality that they are unfit for habitation", reports the Guardian.

    The group includes Crisis, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Save the Children and Unicef UK and call themselves Just Fair. Together they have worked on a report detailing the housing crisis in the UK.

    "It is quite clear we are in breach of our UN obligations," said the report's author, Dr Jessie Hohmann, law lecturer at Queen Mary University of London. "It is possible to take policy steps to protect the most vulnerable and marginalised, but the UK government has decided not to do that. Since the 1980s we have lost any concept of housing's social function, and that is why protest movements are gaining ground. Without decent housing, you can't experience an adequate life in society, but now housing is seen just as an asset."

    According to Just Fair, the UN agreement to "recognise the the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living ... including housing" only allows reduction in rights to housing in cases of "force majeure", including natural disaster and war, and cuts executed during financial crises must be ended when the crisis is over.

    Among the causes of the worsening crisis, the report also cites the government's removal of the "spare room subsidy", also known as the bedroom tax, the "stark undersupply" of new homes, and insecurity of tenure in the private rented market as a result of a the lack of protections in tenancy agreements. "It should be a matter of significant concern that one-third of households in the private rental sector are living in housing that is substandard to the point that is unsafe or unhealthy," the report states.

    The report is intended to inform a UN audit of housing in England starting this autumn. It was largely funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

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