UPR Pre-session 18: Chile, 28 November 2013

In this
presentation, Habitat International Coalition seeks to address a human right
that is relatively underdeveloped in the Universal Periodic Review process, in
general, and particularly lacking in the foregoing review of

The Chilean
Constitution of 1980—and as subsequently amended—recognizes the obligation of
the State to respect and promote human rights recognized in the Constitution
and in international treaties ratified by Chile (Art. 5, para. 2). On 2
February 1977, Chile ratified ICESCR, the principle human rights treaty
enshrining the human right to adequate housing (HRAH). Chile also ratified the
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (on 9 April 1981), which affirms that
the state “may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification
for its failure to perform a treaty” (Article 27).

The HRAH is not a merely property right, but a right
of tenure and human well-being; it is not just a shelter, but a gateway to
other rights. However, in Chilean state law and practice, housing is considered
only as a material good that is acquired as property. The state’s housing
policy is aimed solely at generating the market of owners, without recognizing
other alternatives. Chilean housing policy favors the idea of the right to
housing as the subject of a financial mechanism for accessing a roof; i.e., it
focuses on the element of affordability, without giving sufficient response to
the other attributes of the human right: security of tenure, access to
services, access to environmental goods, preferential access for vulnerable
groups or those subject to discrimination, location, and cultural adequacy.
Housing provided by the Chilean state is officially described as a benefit, or
a reward for an effort, concepts that are inconsistent with the essence of
human rights.

Under the principle of subsidiarity, housing finance
is obtained on the basis of a formula combining the initial efforts of people
(in the form of savings), state subsidy and financial markets (in the form of
mortgages), and projects for constructing housing complexes that, together,
redound to the ultimate benefit of the private sector.

By promoting
freehold home ownership exclusively, the political and economic culture of the
state discourages alternatives such as controlled-rent options, or collective
management. This policy bias further serves as a subsidy for the construction
market and the private financial system.

the state also has cancelled or renegotiated mortgages to prevent the eviction
of households, but has delegated the purchase of land for social housing to the
private sector, leaving resident associations at the mercy of market
conditions. No doubt, these actions ensure the affordability of housing for
low-income families, particularly in a free-market economy, while perpetuating
the preference for freehold home ownership.

Typically, social housing is created in peripheral
locations of the big cities, which has ensured social and spatial segregation,
while creating the stigma that results. Through this policy, the state has
become the producer of urban ghettos.

administrations frown on low-income housing, both because it does not generate
land-tax income for the municipality amid an otherwise-deregulated land market,
and because it stigmatizes communities, particularly those in peripheral areas
where social housing has concentrated. Thus, social discrimination has become
institutionalized. This attitude is sustained also by the low priority that the
state gives to local government, which is allocated only about 12% of the
national budget.

Chile’s housing deficit has declined in absolute numbers over recent decades,
the social housing units that were built are now derelict, and many are slated
for demolition and reconstruction along the current model of ghettoization.

In the three
last decades, housing policies have attempted to reverse these processes
through mechanisms such as a location allowance, increasing subsidies. However,
it is clear that these measures cannot supplant needed land-management policies
ensuring access to common resources. Current policies lack specific provisions
for especially vulnerable groups, including the homeless, immigrants, Roma, the
elderly, youth, disabled persons and indigenous people. The isolation and
material discrimination experienced by these groups is not resolved by shelter
alone, but by more comprehensive measures. Certain social groups such as
migrants or refugees who live in squalid conditions are not covered by any
housing or other social policy.

The legal system does not provide for, or protect the
human right to adequate housing. The housing policy is part of a social policy
aimed at overcoming poverty. However, in practice, it is fixated only on
reducing the housing deficit and efficiently targeting available resources,
while ignoring the primacy of human rights.

The state
does not have a monitoring and evaluation system with indicators for ensuring
housing adequacy. This became particularly evident in the reconstruction after
the earthquake / tsunami of 27 February 2010.

Ministry of Housing and Urbanization (MINVU) took nearly two years to draft a
law to improve standards for the technical inspection of buildings. This is
indicative of the low priority given to adequate housing, in general, and its
value as a human right.

been characterized as a producer of housing, but with limited
involvement in corresponding social issues. It is essential to adopt a human
rights approach to adequate housing within the obligations of binding
instruments that promote participation of citizens and inhabitants in the
process of building sustainable neighborhoods and cities.

Habitat International Coalition proposes the following seven recommendations
for consideration in the coming UPR process:

1. The state
and its lawmakers should develop a positive interpretation of subsidiarity that
requires the state to intervene to ensure public well-being in cases of social
need that the private sector does not fill.

2. Although
the state maintains some programs to mitigate the deprivation of homelessness
and squalid living conditions, it considers housing as a mere commodity. Those
in need of housing are treated as applicants for, or beneficiaries of a gift
bestowed by the state, which negates the essence of the human right to adequate

3. Neither
Chile’s housing policy nor its legislation upholds a human rights approach to
housing, and no explicit mechanisms allow for adjudication of the right, or
prosecution in case of its violation.

Policy must
address the perpetual marginalization, ghettoization and discrimination against
low-income housing dwellers by local authorities and communities. The state
should consider also raising the priority of local government and citizenship
participation, simultaneous with an increase proportion of public budget
allocation to local government and service provision.

5. Chile
should recognize the continuum of tenure arrangements without discrimination or
favoritism, promoting non-freehold solutions to ensure adequate housing.

6. While
land market values continue to rise in all Chilean cities, the spatial
segregation of low-income households to substandard locations also deepens
poverty and inhibits development. The state should intervene in urban
development to eliminate this pattern, which perpetuates social polarization.

7. Chile
should review the housing policy for indigenous people ensuring that the
housing supply respects their cultural land values and property management

* To
download the presentation of HIC on the UPR of Chile as pdf, click here.