The Right to Housing

The Goal Versus the Reality

Authored by: W. Dennis Keating

The Routledge Handbook of Housing Policy and Planning

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138188433
eBook ISBN: 9781315642338
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter analyzes the concept and policy of the right to housing. This has been recognized by the United Nations and other international bodies in various declarations as a basic human right. Housing has been variously defined as having several different components. Several countries have adopted housing as a right either in their national constitutions or in national legislation. Others have accepted the international declarations but not as binding upon them. However, as several case studies illustrate, even those countries that have incorporated them into law have fallen short of achieving the goal of actually fully implementing this right. The case studies are of the United States, including New York City, France, the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The issue of providing at least basic shelter to the homeless is discussed in the context of a report by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Housing, the United States, France, and Scotland, published in 2015. Given the failure of the countries studied to meet all housing needs, the conclusion is that this “right” remains aspirational, even where it is legally recognized. However, approving the right to housing helps organizations seeking to meet housing needs to better be able to pressure their governments to do more to meet those needs, especially for those most in need of adequate housing.

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