On the 9th and 10th October representatives from a variety of different social sectors are together in Oslo, Norway, at the EASPD annual conference “A Home for All”. What is the right to adequate housing? Given the demographic and societal changes, what are the main challenges, obstacles and gaps in protecting this right today but also in the future? Which is the role of social service providers in ensuring the implementation of this right? All these questions have been addressed at the introductory session as well as the plenary session during the first day of the conference.
Franz Wolfmayr, EASPD President, welcomed the participants and introduced the session by reminding the importance of complying with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “The UN Convention marks a starting point to a new shift which opens new pathways to inclusion for persons with disabilities”. Article 19 of the Convention refers to the promotion of independent living by supporting people with disabilities close to their communities. “This challenge implies a common responsibility and understanding of social housing, whilst ensuring that everyone fully participates in society and has a place to live”, the EASPD President said. Access to adequate housing as a Human Right is included in several international conventions such as the United Nations’ Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, restated in a video-message to the participants the need to have a global common understanding of what adequate housing is and the necessity to build up a standard methodology at international level. She also pointed out that in order to successfully support the transition to community living, “service providers need to go to the community. The approach is to really understand the needs of the population. It requires putting the people with needs at the centre of their work, to hear what people are saying”, she recalled. The right to an adequate housing implies several different aspects: legal security of tenure, availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location and cultural adequacy.
Maarit Aalto, from the Nordic Center for Welfare and Social issues, highlighted that “there is still a lot of work to do to achieve inclusion and to allow that everybody can choose who do they want to live with and where do they want to live”.
All public authorities have the duty and obligation to promote and protect this human right. But, when we analyse the social housing sector’s development in recent years, we realise that housing has been considered by public authorities in many countries as a capital asset rather than as a human right. Due to the financial and economic crisis, public authorities have often been encouraged to reduce public spending in this area. Consequently housing prices have increased considerably and this has led to discrimination in terms of accessing social housing. In that sense, Dominic Richardson, Policy analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) pointed out that “governments only dedicate around 2% of their national budgets for social housing policies”. He added that “the partnership approach leads to much more effective policy-making, when governments work together with service providers and third parties”.
Luk Zelderloo, EASPD Secretary General, pointed out the three main challenges for the social services sector. Firstly, “to ensure the shift from the patronised provision approach to the human rights approach“. Second, “to understand that public authorities are withdrawing themselves from the social sector and see their role differently in response to the increased liberalisation of social services”. Thirdly, “the need to adapt to the demographic changes by raising awareness within our communities, further promoting the ‘design for all’ concept, improving communication between all relevant stakeholders in the field and to enhance professional training and skills in the sector”.
- European Parliament resolution on social housing in the European Union (June 2013)
- United Nations Report of the 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.
- UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- Annual Conference “A Home for All” Programme
- More information on the conference “A Home for All”
Nieves Tejada, EASPD Communications Officer