What is the right to a decent home?

The human right to a decent home is recognised in multiple international human rights treaties. International law usually refers to the ‘right to adequate housing’. Sometimes the term the ‘right to shelter’ is used. However, the human rights literature is clear: the right to adequate housing is much more than shelter, bricks, mortar or a house. It is about a decent home.  

Successive governments in Aotearoa have committed to implement the International Bill of Rights, which includes the right to a decent home. Building on the International Bill of Rights, additional human rights agreements, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, include the right to a decent home.  

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples includes numerous provisions that highlight the critical importance of home (kāinga) and land (whenua) to tangata whenua.  

Successive New Zealand governments have helped to write these additional human rights agreements and have also promised to implement them.  

The human right to a decent home places responsibilities on central and local governments, and on the private sector. In Aotearoa New Zealand, the constitutional status of te Tiriti o Waitangi means that the right to a decent home must be read alongside, and grounded on, te Tiriti. 

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