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Successive Governments Responsible For Massive Breaches Of The Right To A Decent Home — Human Rights Commission

Te Kahu Tika Tangata / Human Rights Commission has today launched Framework Guidelines on the Right to a Decent Home in Aotearoa and announced that it will hold a national inquiry into housing.

“New Zealand governments have signed up to a critically important human right: the right to a decent home. For generations, they have promised to create the conditions to enable everyone to live in a decent home, but this has not happened. Successive governments have failed New Zealanders,” says Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.

“For many people, especially young people, the goal of an affordable, healthy, accessible home has actually become more remote. These serial governments bear a heavy responsibility for this massive human rights failure which is blighting lives and communities.”

Mr Hunt adds, “The right to a decent home, although binding on New Zealand in international law, is almost invisible and unknown in Aotearoa.”

“The purpose of the Guidelines is to clarify for central and local government, and individuals, communities and iwi, what the right to a decent home means in New Zealand,” says the Chief Commissioner.

They were developed in partnership with the National Iwi Chairs Forum with the support of Community Housing Aotearoa.

"The National Iwi Chairs Forum has a specific responsibility to ensure the wellbeing and prosperity of whānau, hapū and indeed communities. With this responsibility sits Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which forms the underlying foundations of the relationship we have with the Crown," says Rahui Papa and Dame Naida Glavish.

National inquiry details to be announced later this year

The Human Rights Commission will use the Guidelines in a national inquiry into the right to a decent home under section 5(2) of the Human Rights Act.

Mr Hunt says the inquiry will focus on selected components of the housing crisis.

"The inquiry will engage with communities and officials and make findings, as well as constructive recommendations,” Mr Hunt says.

“The present government has made a promising start on housing, but it remains to be seen if it will do better than its predecessors and address New Zealand’s housing and human rights emergency. Based on the Guidelines, the inquiry will help ensure the government keeps its promises to everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

An announcement on the inquiry structure, composition, terms of reference and timescale will be made public later this year.

Government accountability is key

The 48-page Guidelines are built on values such as fairness and manaakitanga (respect), the United Nations ‘decency’ housing principles, successive governments’ international promises, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

"There is no excuse for those who hold the pen, who are in positions of decision making and authority, to ignore the right for our people to a decent home and what a decent home means. We are interested in the views of the Crown and how they will instil these Guidelines into their policies and practices," says Rahui Papa and Dame Naida Glavish of the National Iwi Chairs Forum.

“If the right to a decent home is explicitly taken into account, it can strengthen and improve housing policies and other initiatives, and it can empower individuals, hapū, iwi and other communities,” adds Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt.

“One problem is that housing initiatives across the public and private sectors lack adequate explicit recognition of the human right to a decent home. Our Guidelines help to address this shortcoming. They provide a framework on which we can build.”

“The housing crisis in Aotearoa is also a human rights crisis encompassing homeownership, market renting, state housing and homelessness. It is having a punishing impact especially on the most marginalised in our communities," says Mr Hunt.

The United Nations independent expert on housing rights backed this view in a report on New Zealand tabled in the United Nations in June.

Leilani Farha wrote that housing speculation, a lack of affordable housing options, limited protection for tenants, substandard housing, the absence of an overarching Te Tiriti and human rights-based housing strategy, and a lack of adequate social housing or state-subsidised housing are the main causes of the crisis.

Mr Hunt says the Guidelines signal the different ways the right to a decent home can constructively contribute to a fair and dynamic housing system in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“We must recognise that everyone has the human right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti. The Guidelines highlight the unique context of Aotearoa, the importance of active and informed citizen participation, and the need for accountability.”

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