ABA Urges US to Promote Housing as a Human Right

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Governments should promote the “human right to housing,” according to a resolution passed by the American Bar Association (ABA).

“The American Bar Association urges governments to promote the human right to adequate housing for all through increased funding, development and implementation of affordable housing strategies to prevent infringement of that right,” reads the resolution, which was proposed by the ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, and formally adopted by the ABA’s House of Delegates on August 12.

The ABA cites the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) -- a multilateral United Nations General Assembly resolution that codifies rights to housing -- as a basis for U.S. policy. Although the U.S. Senate hasn’t ratified the U.N. covenant, the United States is a signatory to the ICESCR. The ABA also refers to the United States’ ratification of two other treaties -- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination -- which both forbid housing discrimination.

The ABA calls for federal, state and local governments to implement policies making available affordable, habitable and accessible housing for all individuals, including unaccompanied youth.

According to the ABA, in 2010 there were more than 10 million low income renters in the United States in 2010 but only 4.5 million “affordable rental units.” As a result, the ABA said, nearly a quarter of rental households spent more than half their income on housing.

Over the last three decades, there has been a “significant disinvestment” in subsidized and public housing by the federal government, according to the ABA. The result of the Great Recession is that “an explicit human rights framework” is now needed to address both housing and homelessness problems in the U.S.

“Given that the U.S. is still the wealthiest nation in the world, with a well developed democratic and judicial system, the ABA calls upon all levels of government

to hold itself to a high standard, one that recognizes the full dignity of every human being

cannot be guaranteed without enjoying, among all other rights, the human right to

adequate housing,” the resolution reads. “Our current struggle with budget deficits is not a reason to defer actions to improve Americans’ access to adequate housing; rather, it is precisely in this time of economic crisis that the need to do so is most acute.”


Photo credit: "Neighborhood Scene Fairmount" by Steven Martin / Flickr (license