Right to adequate housing

The right to dignified housing not only refers to the right for everyone to have four walls and a roof for shelter but also implies that that housing is a home and part of a secure community where one can live in peace, with dignity and good mental and physical health. The right to adequate housing serves as an exemplary example of the interdependence between different human rights: to guarantee the right to adequate housing is essential to guaranteeing; the right to family, no interference in one’s private life, personal security, and health, which in turn are part of the right to life.

The right to housing was recognized in the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PISDESC). Article 11 of the pact establishes “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions”. As such, the local governmental signatories of the pact should develop policies that guarantee this right, prioritizing attention to the most vulnerable groups. To do so, the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations considers that, regardless of context, there are certain elements that must be taken for housing to be considered adequate: a) legal security tenure, b) availability of services, materials and infrastructure, c) affordability, d) habitability, e) accessibility, f) location and g) cultural adequacy.

The recognition of the right to dignified housing in the international scope is configured in part with the right to a level of adequate life recognized in article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 11 of ICESCR. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has developed the content of these rights in two general comments. The General Comment #4 where they name the conditions that define “adequate” housing and General Comment number #7 which is on forced evictions. In the regional field, the right to dignified housing is recognized in the European Social Charter’s articles 16 and 19 (4) and especially in the revised version of 1966 of article 31 which is still awaiting ratification by the Spanish government.