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The Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) scores the United Kingdom 74.5 per cent on housing.

This score tells us that the UK is only doing 74.5 per cent of what should be possible right now with the resources we have. With the system the HRMI uses, anything less than 100 per cent indicates that a country is not meeting its current duty under international human rights law, and so the UK falls into the ‘very bad’ metric in realising the right to housing.

In a response that we submitted to the Welsh Government’s recent consultation into housing this month, we asserted that progress on this is in fact possible and bringing the right to housing into domestic law in Wales is an important first step.

Incorporation

At Just Fair, we often talk about the need for our international rights, such as those included in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to be ‘incorporated’ in the UK. What this means is that these rights should be ‘brought home’ by putting them in our domestic laws.

However, there are lots of different ways of putting our rights into law and how we choose to do it will be very important.

For example, the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 means that the Welsh Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers must always consider the rights of children as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But an obligation to consider, or to ‘have due regard’ as the text of the law puts it, doesn’t mean that they must abide by the treaty. This has resulted in some experts saying that it falls short of incorporation.

In our response to the Welsh Government’s consultation, we said that it is time to build on the work done in the 2011 Measure, but also go further to ensure the right to adequate housing is ‘incorporated’. We’ve suggested that a way to do this would be to have both a ‘due regard’ duty like in the 2011 Measure, but then to also bring in a ‘duty to comply’. A duty to comply could require Welsh Ministers and local authorities not to act in a way which is contradictory with the right to adequate housing.

Devolution

In our submission we recognised that a potential barrier to fully bringing the right to adequate housing into law in Wales was devolution. Housing is a devolved matter for the Welsh Government, and so they can make laws and decisions about it in Wales.  However, some of the areas which overlap with housing are non-devolved. This means that the power to make laws and decisions about a certain area remains with the UK Parliament at Westminster. In our submission we wrote that even with these limits an enshrined right to adequate housing is possible, and we believe it could positively change the lives of many people across Wales.

Conclusion

In a previous submission we made in March 2023 to the Local Government and Housing Committee in Wales we evidenced that the right to adequate housing is being violated and that at least 65 countries already have enforceable economic, social and cultural rights in their constitutions.

In our latest submission, we showed that the right to adequate housing is not only desirable and possible in Wales, but it could also be transformational. The time for action is now.

Note: Just Fair has pledged support to the Back the Bill campaign in Wales, a coalition made up of partners which include Tai Pawb, Shelter Cymru and the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru, who are campaigning to incorporate the right to adequate housing into Welsh law.   

Background image by Victoria Valdez