The Right to Housing: a mission-oriented and human rights based approach
Authored by Co-Chair Mariana Mazzucato and Council Member Leilani Farha, this working paper brings together human rights and missions to equip all levels of governments to deliver secure, affordable, dignified and sustainable housing for all.
Housing is a fundamental human right, because it is key to human well-being and provides a foundation for other rights, including rights to health, education, water and sanitation, freedom of association and freedom of expression, and the right to life itself. It is one of the underlying key capabilities, which Amartya Sen argues is required for opportunities to be harnessed (Sen 1985). The United Nations has determined that the right to adequate housing should not be interpreted narrowly, such as being limited to having shelter or viewed exclusively as a commodity, but rather it is to be understood in a far broader sense: the right to live in peace, security and dignity (UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1991). Realising this right in practice, however, requires new thinking and new policies.
The stark reality is that we are a long way from achieving this goal. Our paper suggests that to make this ambition real, we must bring a human rights approach together with new economic thinking and mission-oriented—outcomes-driven—economic policies. These frameworks can reinforce one another. While the former invokes legal accountability for ensuring adequate housing for all in support of human flourishing, the latter organises and accelerates the multi-stakeholder, whole-of-government action required to meet this obligation. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of achieving ‘access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing’ (SDG 11.1) can provide a north star orientation for this new policy approach. But achieving it requires unpicking the relationships between current actors. It requires governments to set bold missions that catalyse cross-sectoral investment and collaboration, to embrace their role as market-shapers, to align public sector tools, institutions and finance with these missions, and to design partnerships – including with the private sector – that prioritise human rights and the common good.