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Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context
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In the report, the Special Rapporteur considers homelessness as a global human rights crisis directly linked to increased inequality of wealth and property, requiring urgent attention. She examines how homelessness is caused by States’ failures to respond both to individual circumstances and to a range of structural causes, abandoning responsibility for social protection and allowing unregulated real estate speculation and investment to exclude a growing number of people from any form of housing. She outlines a clear set of obligations on States under international human rights law that, if complied with, would eliminate homelessness. She proposes a global campaign to eliminate homelessness by 2030.
Author: Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing


1. The present report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to nondiscrimination in this context, is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 15/8 and 25/17.

2. Homelessness is a global human rights crisis that demands an urgent global response. It is occurring in all socioeconomic contexts — in developed, emerging and developing economies, in prosperity as well as in austerity. It is a diverse phenomenon, affecting different groups of people in different ways but with common features. It is symptomatic of the failure of governments to address growing inequalities in income, wealth and access to land and property and to effectively respond to the challenges of migration and urbanization. Homelessness occurs when housing is treated as a commodity rather than as a human right.

3. At the same time, homelessness represents individual experiences of some of the most vulnerable members of society, characterized by abandonment, despair, erosion of self-esteem, denial of dignity, serious health consequences and loss of life. The term "homeless” describes not only a lack of housing but also identifies a social group. The close link between the denial of rights and a social identity distinguishes homelessness from deprivations of other socioeconomic rights. People denied water or food are rarely treated as a social group in the way homeless people are. Those who are homeless are subject to stigmatization, social exclusion and criminalization.

4. Homelessness is an extreme violation of the rights to adequate housing and nondiscrimination and often also a violation of the rights to life, to security of person, to health, to protection of the home and family and to freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment. However, it has not been addressed with the urgency and priority that ought to be accorded to so widespread and severe a violation of human rights. Homelessness was not mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals, is absent from the Sustainable Development Goals and has been rarely mentioned in the preparatory work for the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). Violations of the right to life because of homelessness have rarely been addressed as such by international human rights bodies.

5. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur considers how homelessness is experienced as a human rights violation and how it can be effectively challenged and eliminated if addressed within a human rights framework. She urges that the elimination of homelessness be affirmed as a cross-cutting human rights priority in socioeconomic policy, planning and development.

6. The Special Rapporteur solicited and received over 70 responses with information and views on the issue from States, civil society, national human rights institutions and United Nations agencies. She held a two-day expert consultation in Buenos Aires with 25 experts in homelessness and the right to housing from around the world. She is grateful for all the information and guidance received. The Special Rapporteur is also appreciative of the important work done on this topic by her predecessor, Miloon Kothari.

* Click here to download the report, available in all UN languages.

• Advocacy / SRAH-UN   • Housing and Land Rights / Right to Adequate Housing   

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