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UN visit underscores importance of good homes as basic right

“Next week’s visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing is an opportunity to take a no-holds-barred look at New Zealand’s housing crisis to see if we’re doing enough to provide good, affordable homes for all New Zealanders,” says Scott Figenshow, Chief Executive of Community Housing Aotearoa (CHA).

“Given the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness and extreme housing stress, we think the answer is a clear ‘no’ and we’re hoping the visit will be a real wake-up call about what needs to be done.”

UN Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha is visiting New Zealand from 10-19 February to look at the housing situation here. CHA (the sector body for community housing providers), the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, Te Matapihi and others are looking forward to the visit providing Ms Farha with access to on-the-ground insights into housing and human rights.

Ms Farha will hold meetings with Government representatives, public institutions, experts, civil society representatives and confidential meetings with people affected by the housing crisis or by inadequate housing. She will be holding a press conference in Wellington at the end of her visit at 1pm on Wednesday 19 February to present her preliminary findings and recommendations. The press conference will be held at UNICEF New Zealand, Level 1, PSA House, 11 Aurora Terrace, Wellington 6011. It will also be live-streamed for those unable to attend in person.

For media enquiries and registration for the end of mission press conference please contact Gunnar Theissen, who is supporting the Special Rapporteur at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at gtheissen@ohchr.org.

Media representatives are also invited to a public showing of the award-winning documentary ‘The Push’ (www.pushthefilm.com) that follows the work of the Special Rapporteur around the globe from 7-9pm on Tuesday 11 February at Victoria University’s Pipitea campus in Wellington. After the screening, Ms Farha will respond to questions about the film.

Please RSVP to support@communityhousing.org.nz if you do plan to attend, as the theatre has limited capacity. The Government Building Lecture Theatre 1 (GB LT 1) is located behind the main building along Stout Street. Please see the map here for location of the theatre.

Mr Figenshow says Ms Farha’s visit could not be more timely.

“All New Zealanders should have a good place to call home but the reality is many families are struggling to find or keep a roof over their heads as well as food on the table.”

He pointed to two issues in particular that Ms Farha will be seeking to discuss. The first involved the extent to which houses in New Zealand were being used as financial products to generate wealth rather than being viewed as homes which could build communities and foster wellbeing. The second was to do with how a rights-based national housing strategy had worked in other countries and what lessons there might be for New Zealand.

Mr Figenshow says New Zealand needs a national housing strategy to provide affordable homes.

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