Human Rights Commission launches inquiry into housing crisis

Source: 1News

With the housing crisis not showing any signs of being solved any time soon, the Human Rights Commission says the crisis actually represents a human rights emergency.

This morning, the Human Rights Commission released guidelines for both public and private providers around how having a decent home to live in is a basic human right, as well as announcing an upcoming inquiry into housing in Aotearoa New Zealand.

But it's not a new issue, and is something Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt this morning said was because successive government's hadn't kept their promises to provide adequate housing to New Zealanders.

"I want governments to keep their human rights promises to everybody in Aotearoa New Zealand," he told Breakfast.

"Amongst those promises is a right to a decent home - that is a decent, dry, healthy, affordable, accessible home and serial governments have signed up to this and they haven't kept their promises.

A file image of state housing.

"It's really important that there is a proper understanding of what a right to a decent home means, it's not just a bumper sticker, it's not just a one-liner, it's not just a slogan - it means something substantive," he said.

"If governments take it into account it will help them deliver better housing initiatives and it'll also empower individuals, communities, iwi, hapu."

When asked specifically about the current Labour Government, Hunt credited the $3.8 billion investment announced this year as "a good start", but added more work was needed. The Housing Acceleration Fund was set up to speed up the pace and scale of home building.

"In the guidelines that we've prepared, with the support of Community Housing Aotearoa and in partnership with the National Iwi Chairs Forum, we set out what the right to a decent home, at least the framework, is," Hunt said.

"There are eight key features that we identify, there are a number of UN decency housing principles - so it's that sort of stuff that needs to be at the heart of the Government's housing policies and initiatives."

However, later on Breakfast Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government was pulling "every single lever" to make sure people have warm, dry, affordable homes.

"We have built more houses than any government since the 1970s and we need to build more, we know that we need to do more make it affordable for first home buyers," she said.

"It takes time to build a home but we are building homes at a rapid pace.

"When I look at the record of what we've done - 8000 houses to date, 18,000 on the cards - we are scaling up as quickly as we can."

However, Community Housing Aotearoa's Brennan Rigby, also on Breakfast, added that there also needed to be better ways to hold the Government to account.

"The usual way that New Zealanders have to hold the Government to account for housing outcomes is writing to our minister, and that's not really super functional from a democratic point of view," he said.

"That comes along with another principle which is access to justice - so if we think about someone living in a home that's not habitable or if we think about someone who's experiencing homelessness in New Zealand at the moment they have no constitutional rights in relation to that and they have no access to justice."

Rigby said the new guidelines out today take New Zealand "a step towards realising that that needs to happen".

"If the guidelines are taken into account seriously and properly then they will enhance, they will improve the Government's housing initiatives as well as empowering individuals and communities," Hunt added.

"Crucially, later this year we will be standing up a national inquiry into the right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti and that's a way of us holding to account Government and others for their legally binding obligation to do all they reasonably can to deliver the right to a decent home grounded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi."

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.