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Emergency Housing Revamp Needs To Focus On Human Rights And Te Tiriti

The human rights of people experiencing homelessness need to be at the centre of the Government’s revamp of the emergency housing system says Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission.

“Everyone has the right to a decent home in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Government has obligations to provide emergency accommodation that meets human rights standards for people experiencing homelessness,” says Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga Disability Rights Commissioner Prudence Walker.

Walker, who is the Commission’s housing spokesperson says, “We are all familiar with the challenge of finding a decent, affordable home that meets our needs. That challenge is severe if you are living on a low fixed income and even more difficult if you are disabled person trying to find an accessible home.

“The impacts of homelessness on our communities are serious and wide ranging, and it is right that the Government moves to improve the system.

“I would expect that the proposals now on the table have been through a strong human rights and te Tiriti o Waitangi analysis, but that’s not clear. This is something I intend to take up with Ministers,” says Walker.

An estimated 100,000 or more people in Aotearoa are experiencing some form of homelessness. It is a problem most significantly experienced by Tangata Whenua, reflecting the nation’s painful past where the colonial government, beginning in the 1860’s systematically stripped Māori of traditional land and home ownership.

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“To meet human rights and te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations, the Government’s frontline response to homelessness should be built upon fulfilling the right to a decent home, which ensures people’s dignity and mana is respected.”

In 2022, the Commission outlined the human rights obligations of government for emergency housing, which include:

  1. Provide emergency housing that meets minimum decency standards and other key features of the right to a decent home – for example warm, dry and mould free.
  2. Do not evict anyone into homelessness.
  3. Uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi alongside other human rights obligations.
  4. Establish effective and accessible accountability arrangements in relation to the emergency housing system.

Walker says she also wants a focus on accessibility through the shake-up of the emergency housing system. The lack of accessible housing in the rental market and social housing contributes to homelessness for disabled people or having to live in inaccessible and unsafe accommodation.

“We have to make sure that people – whether it is disabled people, elderly people, or young families – have appropriate and accessible housing,” says Walker.

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