On 18 November 2019, SERI, in collaboration with members of the Steering Group of the South Africa’s Ratification Campaign of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and its Optional Protocol (the Coalition), made a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

As noted in the call for submissions, the Special Rapporteur has documented the nature and extent of the global housing crisis in her thematic and country visit reports. To assist States and Slovo houseother stakeholders to respond to the housing crisis, she has published draft Guidelines outlining key elements that underpin the effective implementation of the right to housing. These Guidelines will also inform the Special Rapporteur’s final report to the Human Rights Council.

The submission, endorsed by Black Sash; Development Action Group (DAG); Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape; People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA); the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS); Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR); Section27; the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI); Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII); Prof Jackie Dugard and Prof Lilian Chenwi from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, endorsed the draft Guidelines and noted that guidelines provide States with a framework to “address the challenges of informal settlements, homelessness, and insecure tenure”.

A few Guidelines were highlighted in particular:

  • SERIJointSubmission Comment on right to housing guidelinesGuideline 4, which recommends that States “Address discrimination and ensure equality” and notes the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities in public and private housing should be able to access housing on an equitable basis.
  • Guideline 6, which recommends that States “Eliminate homelessness in the shortest possible time” and notes the importance of ensuring that individuals and families are not forced to rely on emergency accommodation for extended periods of time.
  • Guideline 8, which recommends that States “Clarify the obligations of businesses in relation to the right to housing and address financialization of housing”.
  • Guideline 9, which recommends that States “Ensure the right to housing for migrants” including ensuring that housing agencies not engage in discriminatory practices and ensuring that migrants can enjoy the right to adequate housing regardless of their migration status.
  • Guideline 10, which recommends that States “Ensure meaningful participation of all those affected in the design, implementation and monitoring of housing policies, programs and strategies”.
  • Guideline 12, which recommends that States “Upgrade informal settlements incorporating a human rights-based approach” and specifies that the upgrading process should take into account that residents must have continued access to their livelihoods and that the upgrading process should be undertaken in the shortest possible time given the available resources
  • Guideline 13, which recommends that States “Prohibit forced evictions and prevent any evictions”.

The submission suggested that the Guidelines would be strengthened by making explicit the need for policies which promote spatial justice, including improved access for poor and low-income households to well-located accommodation, and improving access to social and economic opportunities. This implies emphasising the State’s responsibility to facilitate access to affordable public or private rental housing and transparency in the housing provision process.

“It is imperative that States focus on improving mechanisms for monitoring the progressive realisation of the right to housing, and clarify the respective powers and duties of different levels of government in implementing strategies to realise the right to adequate housing and to implement pro-poor and enabling regulation of private actors.”

  • Download the written submission here.