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23 of June 2021  

Today, Just Fair is taking part in a roundtable discussion on rethinking housing supply and design hosted by the Women’s Budget Group (WBG). To support this Just Fair’s Temporary Researcher, Philippa Hughes, prepared a report exploring the right to housing in the context of the climate emergency in the UK. 

The right to housing is a key Economic, Social and Cultural Right, confirming the right of all people to live in security, peace, and dignity in a home that is safe, secure, affordable and meets their needs.  

The UK government has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and has therefore committed to using its powers to achieve the full realisation of the right to housing in the UK by all available means.  

Despite this commitment, the protection of ESCR have not been adopted into domestic law and millions of people in the UK experience significant and persistent violations of the right to housing. This is evident in the exceptionally high numbers of people who are homeless, or vulnerable to homelessness and the inadequate living conditions faced by those stuck in unaffordable, insecure, or uninhabitable homes.  

Women are more likely to encounter a violation of their right to housing across their life than men, in part due to their often reduced economic power which leaves them less able to access adequate housing. These violations include experiencing problems with affordability, safety, and overcrowding. In particular, single mothers and their children are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness and are the families most likely to face unsuitable temporary accommodation, such as Bed and Breakfasts or out of area placements.  

Homelessness and eviction can be incredibly stressful and traumatising events in a person’s life and attempting to avoid these outcomes can consume huge mental, financial, and relational resources for individuals and families. Moreover, living in inadequate housing has a variety of other pernicious and long-term impacts such as detrimental impacts on mental and physical healthrelationships, education, and job opportunities. In general, research points to a strong link between inadequate housing and lower general life satisfaction and wellbeing.  

Adequate housing can support efforts to mitigate the climate emergency where inadequate housing can undermine these efforts. A key example of this is the high prevalence of housing that fails to meet standards of habitability in terms of protection against cold and heat.  

Such housing will have increased use of greenhouse gas emissions as residents attempt to keep their homes at a reasonable temperature. Furthermore, the new homes required to enable people to realise their right to secure and affordable housing must be built to zero carbon and low environmental impact standards which must be strongly enforced.  Adaptation of the homes we live in is also necessary to meet the increased risks of flooding and overheating in order prevent increasing the human cost of the climate emergency through displacement and worsening housing conditions for those affected.  

Given these connections, our report for the WBG suggests that the right to housing, alongside other ESCR should be incorporated into any Feminist Green New Deal proposals and utilised as a legal framework to support the ambitions of addressing the disproportionate violations to the right to housing experienced by women, achieving adequate housing for all and taking action to mitigate the climate emergency.