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A statutory right to adequate housing

As part of WHQ’s What I’d Change about Housing and the Law feature, Simon Hoffman calls for the Welsh Government to act on the right to housing. 

Housing meets the most basic of human needs. Not only is it shelter from the elements and a place of safety, it is somewhere to call home, perhaps to raise a family, or as a base for employment, education or retirement. This is why the right to adequate housing is recognised as a fundamental human right guaranteed to all by Article 11.1 of the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

The UK has signed this Covenant, and is therefore bound in international law to take action to give effect to the right in the UK. Despite this, many are denied the most basic of human rights through homelessness, insecure tenure, poor housing conditions and overcrowding, unaffordable rents, and most recently, changes to the welfare system which prejudices the right to adequate housing for many, including the most vulnerable in society.

I believe that the law in the UK should be changed to introduce a statutory right to adequate housing, but this is resisted by the UK government. I would therefore like to see the Welsh Government introduce legislation give effect to the right to adequate housing in Wales. Since devolution in 1999 Wales has taken several progressive initiatives to protect and promote international human rights through legislation, most notably children’s rights, by incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Welsh law.

Making the right to adequate housing part of Welsh law would further enhance the protection and realisation of fundamental human rights in Wales. This would have an impact for housing policy and the work of social landlords in Wales, establishing a guiding framework for decision-making and action based on recognition of adequate housing as a right.

Simon Hoffman, associate professor, College of Law and Criminology, Swansea University

If you would like to contribute to Part 2 of this feature, tell WHQ what you would change about the law in relation to housing and why by emailing the editor, Jules Birch, at [email protected]

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