Also available in: French

2.1. Housing is a Human Right

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights established a right to housing that says that a person should be able to live in security, peace and dignity((

This includes:

  • Legal security of tenure, centred on legal protection from forced eviction, harassment by landlords and other threats to having a settled home.
  • Affordability, in the sense that housing costs should not be so high as to mean that food, education and access to healthcare are unaffordable.
  • Habitability, which effectively means that housing is in a reasonable state of repair and provides adequate shelter and living space.
  • Availability of services, which centres on the infrastructure needed to make housing habitable, i.e. sanitation, capacity to prepare and cook meals, washing facilities, storage, heating and lighting and waste disposal facilities.
  • Accessibility, which means that housing should be available to those who require it. Where appropriate, housing should maximise the capacity for someone with a physical disability or limiting illness to live independently.
  • Location, i.e. housing must allow access to necessary services. This includes education, health, shops and other services. Housing should also be within access of opportunities for paid work and civic participation. Housing should not be in an environment that is hazardous to health.
  • Cultural adequacy, i.e. housing should allow people to live in ways that do not disrupt their culture. This means housing should allow for the expression of cultural identity.

The European Typology of Homelessness (ETHOS) defines what is meant by a home in a different way, using the idea of physical, social and legal domains. The physical domain centres on having one’s own living space, in other words, your own front door to your own home, which is under your exclusive control. The social domain covers the space and privacy needed to live a normal life as an individual, a couple or a family. The legal domain echoes the international definition of a right to housing, i.e. security of residence that is legally protected((European Typology of Homelessness – English: uploads/2016/03/ETHOS-EN.pdf)).

Housing First emphasizes the right that homeless people have to housing. Housing is provided first, rather than last, without any expectation that a homeless person has to behave in certain ways, comply with treatment, or be abstinent from drugs or alcohol, before they are given a home. Housing First does not expect homeless people to earn their right to housing, or earn a right to remain in housing.

People using Housing First are expected to follow the conditions of their lease, or tenancy, in the same way as any other person renting a home would be, with support being provided to enable them to do this. Housing First services also expect there to be regular contact between someone using their service and a support worker, for example at a weekly meeting, which includes checking whether there are any problems with their home (see Chapter 3).

The housing offered by Housing First is not temporary accommodation. Housing First offers a real home within the terms of both the UN and ETHOS definitions.