Incorporating human rights perspectives into housing strategies

The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing presented a report on housing strategies that promote socioeconomic equality and inclusion. It mentions examples from numerous countries, including Argentina.

Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha presented her report on housing strategies before the UN Human Rights Council last Wednesday. The document is filled with practical recommendations about how states can achieve intervention strategies that are protective of rights, with positive and negative examples cited in each section.

Incorporating human rights perspectives entails, for example, ceasing to conceive of the target population of these strategies as “beneficiaries” and regarding them instead as rights holders, active subjects who must participate in the decisions affecting their lives. The report also notes that human rights claims help identify structural dynamics that replicate violations of the right to housing, which in turn makes it possible to mobilize effective resources for structural change.

“Strategies must prevent housing systems themselves from sustaining and increasing socioeconomic inequality and exclusion,” the report says. It adds that private actors must be subject to obligations with respect to the right to housing: “Governments cannot simply ensure that private actors do no harm by, for example, preventing illegal evictions or demolitions. They must also ensure that the actions of private actors and investors are consistent with the State’s obligation to fulfill the right to housing.”

With respect to Argentina, the report cites as a positive example the National Consensus for Decent Habitat, an initiative by the Habitar Argentina multi-sectoral collective of organizations that proposes ten public policies and regulatory and land-management instruments to reverse the housing deficit in our country.

The document also refers to the Fair Access to Habitat Law enacted in Buenos Aires province, emphasizing that it imposes obligations on private actors in the real estate sector and “allows for an increase in taxes on property when its value increases because of neighborhood development” brought about by government decisions.

The complete report by the Rapporteur can be found here.