Housing must be situated where people have access to job opportunities, health care, schools, emergency services, and other social facilities. Housing should not be situated in dangerous places, for example near sources of pollution that might be a threat to health; and the security of the location and freedom of movement should be upheld by good policing.
Regardless of whether people rent, own or are living without any legal rights on the land or home in which they live, security of tenure guarantees them legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats.Learn More
So for your house you’d need these items:
Not everybody has a house like this - In fact, millions have to go without.
Pick three of these things you absolutely couldn't live without
Where can you go to the toilet? For many people around the world, this is not a major concern, but it is a daily problem for the more than 1 million residents of the Kenyan slum Kibera.. Watch the short film 'Going to the Toilet'. Most slums have no legal status: they are ‘illegal settlements.’ That is why local authorities do not feel responsible for providing essential facilities, such as access to clean water and sanitation. ‘You’ll be shocked’, a woman warns. The filthiness of the area is overpowering. Cholera and tuberculosis are rampant. ‘In the hospital the doctors advise me to live in a place with fresh air’, a woman says. A ramshackle, improvised shower is used by 200 people. The waste water flows through an open sewer through the neighbourhood.
Many people living in inadequate housing have to walk for many miles to access safe water or pay for water from private suppliers or from street vendors which is often very expensive.. You may have a stream near by, but it's hard to guarantee that the water is safe to drink. Drinking unsafe water can cause many diseases (which are usually preventable) and even deaths. Without access to water it can be difficult to wash clothes and keep clean. You'll likely have no access to a flush toilet, sewage system or waste removal services.
Living in informal settlements or inadequate housing often means that you have very little privacy. You will probably have to share toilets and bathing areas with many people, carry your own water, have to wait in long queues to access them and often have no lock or even door. This can make it especially uncomfortable and dangerous for girls and women to change clothes and bathe. There's also little room for anyone to have privacy as families often sleep and live in one room all together - that means sharing living space and sleeping in a room with your parents, siblings and other family members!
My four-year-old son has to take antibiotics very often because he gets sick a lot. Those antibiotics have to be kept in the refrigerator. We don’t have electricity. I have to drive three times a day, even in the middle of the night, to get his medicine from my mother-in-law. Our baby is only a few months old. She is sick all the time. I don’t know how we will survive the winter." Danilo Hudorovič, his partner and three children live in the informal Romani settlement of Goriča vas, which has around 70 inhabitants.
Many people living in inadequate housing lack a stable supply of energy for cooking, heating and lighting. This can affect what food you are able to eat each day, as well as your ability to store food safely in a cold space, like a fridge. Lacking energy for lighting means you may struggle to do your homework in the dark, and without public lighting, your street can become a more dangerous place.
Living far from a school can mean missing out on an education. This is one of the reasons that 67 million children around the world did not go to school during the 2009 school year!
Many people living in inadequate housing live far from the most basic of services, such as healthcare facilities and schools. Informal settlements or slums can often be far from municipal areas meaning that people may have difficulty travelling each day to get to work. This impinges on your rights to healthcare, education and work, all key human rights which are important to help people break out of the poverty trap.
Did you know? In many cities, women and girls living in slums are particularly at risk of sexual violence. This is particularly common at night when women try to reach toilet blocks (also called sanitation blocks) in the dark. Roads or lanes that lead to toilet blocks are usually unlit and dangerous.
Many houses, rooms and sanitation facilities in informal settlements and slums do not have locks on the doors. Without these basic security measures people are at higher risk of crime. Women can be at particular risk from sexual violence living in informal settlements or slums as police presence is usually limited or non-existent.
“My former landlord… would increase the rent regularly and on a whim… Before I left the house, I owed just one month’s rent arrears and the landlord became very violent towards me. One day he came to the house with some youths and broke down the main door and part of the roof. He threw all my belongings out of the house and told me to leave. After I took my property back into the house, he warned that he would do the same thing the next day…I left that house the following day.” Flora, Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum in Kenya.
People who lack security of tenure may be excluded from laws and protections that apply to other urban residents such as rent control or requirements on landlords to provide services. Security of tenure guarantees that you cannot be evicted from your home without due legal process. Even if you have lived in your house for a while, and all your belongings and possessions are there, without security of tenure you could lose everything by tomorrow.
A forced eviction is the removal of people against their will from the homes or land they occupy without due process and other legal safeguards. Because evictions can have such devastating impacts on people’s lives, they may only be carried out as a last resort. Prior to any eviction, government authorities must genuinely consult everyone who may be affected by the eviction to identify all feasible alternatives to evictions. People must be provided with adequate notice, legal remedies and compensation for their losses.Learn More
Your home is often part of a neighborhood and community - being relocated elsewhere means you can lose support networks of friends and family.Family Friends
Human rights are a fundamental set of entitlements or guarantees, starting with the right to life. They are every human beings' birthright, meaning that no human being anywhere in the world should ever be denied their rights, at any time or for any reason. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the world’s governments in 1948. It is a set of standards that affirm the rights to freedom, dignity, respect and equality for everyone, everywhere. Article 25 of the UDHR includes the right to adequate housing as part of the human right to an adequate standard of living.Learn More
Informal settlements are areas where housing has been constructed on land to which the occupant have no legal claim, or which they occupy illegally. These are unplanned settlements where housing is not in compliance with current planning and building regulations.
A slum is an area where more than half of the households have the characteristics of a “slum household.” This means that most of the residents in a slum lack one or more of the following:
Discrimination means being excluded, restricted or treated differently, in a way that denies people their human rights. Ending all forms of discrimination is essential to enabling people to exercise and claim their human rights.
A particularly stark example of discrimination is the inadequate housing and living conditions that many Romani communities live in within Europe. Romani communities often live in segregated settlements on the outskirts of cities and towns, with poor access to transport, schools, health care facilities and other public services. This reflects historical and current discrimination against these communities, both by authorities and by others in the population who do not want Romani individuals and families moving into their neighbourhoods.
“The local population does not accept Roma at all. They don’t want the Roma living in their neighbourhoods.”
Mayor of Semic, Slovenia in August 2009. From: Parallel lives: Roma denied rights to housing and water in Slovenia.
Human rights are often described as being “inalienable”, “indivisible” and “interdependent”:
A house provides the foundation for most things that people need in their lives. In the words of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) in its General Comment No. 4 “[T]he right to housing should not be interpreted in a narrow or restrictive sense which equates it with, for example, the shelter provided by merely having a roof over one's head". To be “adequate” or fit for habitation, housing must meet certain standards:
A house is much, much more than a roof over your head. The right to adequate housing* is a human right.
By looking at international laws and treaties, we can identify states' obligations to guarantee everybody this right.
By voicing our outrage against human rights violations and standing in solidarity with those who are demanding their right to adequate housing, we can tackle poverty
And by holding governments and other actors accountable, we can help those whose rights are violated to get justice.