Housing as a human right: a way to end homelessness?


Speakers at LHG’s Connected 2020 fringe meeting, organised jointly with Labour Campaign for Human Rights and sponsored by Community, agreed that now is the time for a legal right to housing in Britain.

Leilani Farha, UN Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing 2014-2020

  • The time for a legal right is now, in the UK and across the world.
  • Canada, Barcelona, and Berlin offer examples of how the right to housing can dramatically change the way we view housing.
  • It prioritises listening to residents’ experience as experts.

Becky Ross from Labour Homelessness Campaign:

  • Those trying to leave the streets for their own accommodation encounter a dehumanising bureaucratic system.
  • Many single homeless people have mental health and other difficulties, made worse by the nightmare of intensive paperwork.
  • Hostels often feel unsafe, and too few people are given long term housing.
  • The system must recognise that everyone has a right to a home, understand trauma and provide safe long term homes as a way out of homelessness.

Matt Downie, Director of Policy and External Affairs, Crisis:

  • Our current homelessness system, established in 1977, made a big difference but made compromises. Now we need to remove barriers to single people being offered emergency and long term housing, and stop pitting the “deserving” against the “undeserving” poor.
  • Decisions are increasingly unfair, moving people hundreds of miles from their communities to short term, sometimes substandard, accommodation.
  • Local authorities should work together and commit to giving homeless people the right to a home.

Melantha Chittenden, Head of Communications and Media, Community Union:

  • Homeless veterans experience many barriers but often without the skills needed to find and keep a home.
  • We need a targeted approach which recognises their right to a home. No-one is more deserving of a home than anyone else.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing:

  • Our housing system is not what you would choose to handle a pandemic.
  • The Government has no plan for what happens to homeless people initially accommodated.
  • Tenants are inadequately protected and this is no time to resume evictions.
  • Keir Starmer explicitly supports the right to housing. We need that right to become law and be acted upon.


Human Rights-based National Housing Strategies
Guidelines for the implementation of the right to adequate housing

View the video of the Fringe meeting here: