Housing, Front Line Defence Against COVID-19, Says United Nations Special Rapporteur

Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, published an article on the organization's website on March 18, citing the responsibilities of governments and states to curb the pandemic. They must, in particular:

"cease all evictions; provide emergency housing with services for those who are affected by the virus and must isolate; ensure that the enforcement of containment measures (eg: curfews) does not lead to the punishment of anyone based on their housing status; provide equal access to testing and health care; and provide adequate housing which may require the implementation of extraordinary measures as appropriate in a state of emergency, including using vacant and abandoned units and available short-term rentals.

"With respect to those facing job loss and economic hardship, States must: provide direct financial assistance for or defer rental and mortgage payments; enact a moratorium on evictions due to arrears; introduce rental stabilization or reduction measures; and, at least for the duration of the pandemic, suspend utility costs and surcharges."

She also stressed the danger that private interests may pose in the fight against COVID-19: "Measures are being introduced and significant resources allocated to mitigate against the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, such as lowering interest rates. There is a risk that such measures will enable global financial actors to use the pandemic and the misfortunes of many to dominate housing markets without regard for human rights standards, as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis [...] States must prevent the predatory practices of institutional investors in the area of residential real estate."

She concludes by saying, "By ensuring access to secure housing with adequate sanitation, States will not only protect the lives of those who are homeless or living in informal settlements but will help protect the entire world's population by flattening the curve of COVID-19."

This article was published in

Number 22 - April 17, 2020

Article Link:
Housing, Front Line Defence Against COVID-19, Says United Nations Special Rapporteur


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