What is the Human Right to Housing?
Everyone has a human right to housing, which means all persons, regardless of income, have the right to occupy a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home in peace and dignity, free from forced eviction.
It is the government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill this right. The human right to housing is articulated in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the United States is both an author and a signatory:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-
being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
The fundamental human rights of Participation and Equity are also key to the realization of a right to housing in the United States.
What do Human Rights have to do with Organizing & Social Movements?
Although a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States does not recognize or enforce human rights, particularly economic and social rights, at home. Yet, while this may mean we have no legal right under our domestic laws, this does not mean a human rights violation has not taken place.
Human rights offer us more than just a legal framework; they also form a dynamic vision, or framework, which has inspired and guided social movements around the world. The human rights framework offers the opportunity to engage in discussions about is right, not just what has been or will be delivered by the government, as well as a starting place for envisioning a different and better society in which these rights are realized. Human rights standards can be used to challenge and evaluate the prevailing set of values underlying our existing policies and programs.
Our Movement in Our Words
“We understand now, more than ever, that our challenges are not just rural or urban, not just poor or middle-class. We realize that the crisis we face is not just a housing crisis, but a human rights crisis.” (Rob Robinson, Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights)
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to look into the manifestations of the housing crisis locally and think about what we can do collectively and reach out and connect to the voices of those that are most affected by this housing crisis. And they are not just people who are living in public housing and people who are dealing with foreclosure and the homeless, but, in my estimation, it’s almost everybody.” (Frank Sindaco, Northeast Pennsylvania Organizing Center)
“We’re going to start supporting each other, standing behind each other—it’ll make all the difference in the world.” (J.R. Fleming, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign)