UN rights expert warns of regression on the right to adequate housing in the United Kingdom


LONDON / GENEVA (11 September 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur
on housing, Raquel Rolnik, today expressed serious concern about a
deterioration in the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing in the United
Kingdom. She warned against the combined impact of various official measures,
recent and past, that “have eroded and continue to erode one of the world’s
finest systems of affordable housing.”

“The UK has had
a long history of providing affordable and good quality housing, and it should
take pride in having placed this human right at the centre of its policy
priorities,” Ms. Rolnik noted at the end of the first visit to the country by
an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and
promote the realization of the right to adequate housing and the right to
non-discrimination in this context worldwide.

generations, being poor in the UK didn’t necessarily equate to being homeless,
or to living badly housed and in permanent threat of eviction,” the human
rights expert said.

Ms. Rolnik remarked, ” the system has been weakened by a series of measures over
the years, notably by having privileged homeownership over other forms of
tenure. ” Most recently several reforms to the welfare system topped with cuts
in grants for housing provision ” appear to compromise the realisation of the right
to adequate housing and other related human rights,” she said.

“The so-called
bedroom tax has already had impacts on some of the most vulnerable members of
society, ” the UN Special Rapporteur stressed. “During these days of my visit,
the dramatic testimonies of people with disabilities, grand-mothers who are
carers for their families, and others affected by this policy, clearly point to
a measure that appears to have been taken without the human component in mind.”

The human rights
expert acknowledged that times of economic crisis allow for difficult policy
decisions to be made, but warned that “international human rights standards on
the right to adequate housing clearly call on governments to avoid jeopardizing
the protection of the most vulnerable in the face of fiscal pressures.”

“I am also
concerned about the conditions of private renters, as the reduction in the
social housing stock and the credit downturn, has forced a higher percentage of
the population, notably young people, to the private sector, with substantial
impact on affordability, location and tenure security,” she said.

“Although there
are significant differences between the situation and policy decision-making in
England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, to which I will refer in my
final report in more detail, my perception is that some trends are common and
deserve further scrutiny from a human rights perspective”, she said. The report
will be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

During her
two-week mission, the Special Rapporteur visited London, Edinburgh, Glasgow,
Belfast and Manchester, where she met with government officials working on
housing issues, various human rights commissions, academics and civil society.
Ms. Rolnik also carried out site visits, where she heard first-hand testimonies
and discussed with individuals, campaigners and local community organizations.

Check the full
end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur here.


Ms. Raquel Rolnik was appointed in 2008 as the UN Special Rapporteur on
adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living
and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. Ms. Rolnik is an
architect and an urban planner, with over 30 years of experience in planning
and urban land management. Based in Sao Paulo, she is a professor at the
Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Sao Paulo and is the
author of several books and articles on the urban issue. In her career, she has
held various government positions and has also worked with international and
civil society organizations. She has advised national and local governments on
policy reform as well as on planning and management of housing and local
development programs. Learn more, log on to:


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