Community Scoop

UN visit underlines importance of good homes as a basic human right

cushla-managhCushla Managh

Strategic Communications and Engagement Manager | Community Housing Aotearoa

In the past week we’ve had an unprecedented opportunity to shine an international spotlight on housing as a human right in Aotearoa – and while we’ve undoubtedly seen much to like, we’ve also seen firsthand what housing stress looks like for the many New Zealanders struggling to find somewhere good to call home.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, has spent the past nine days here gathering information and insights into how well New Zealand is doing when it comes to providing good, affordable homes for all.

She was welcomed with a powhiri, marking the start of a whirlwind week of meetings, discussions, site visits and events throughout the country. Highlights have included:

  • meetings with individuals and families experiencing housing stress in Kaitaia, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch
  • marae and site visits to hear about Māori access to housing and issues with cultural adequacy
  • a public screening of the award-winning documentary The Push (Sweden, 2019), which was well-attended by a very engaged audience and was followed by an opportunity to ask questions
  • updates on the best available research on housing in New Zealand
  • a public seminar in Auckland on the connections between housing finance and wellbeing, and the options available to us
  • learning about iwi/Māori community housing developments that are making a difference
  • hearing from advocacy groups working in the areas of rights, tenancy, poverty, disability, refugee support, and youth homelessness
  • meetings with a wide range of government agencies and officials.

She is releasing a preliminary summary of her findings and recommendations today (Wednesday) before leaving New Zealand, and a fuller report of her visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2021. We will provide an update once the report is out.

Community Housing Aoteaora has worked with Te Matapihi, the Human Rights Commission and a wide range of organisations to assist with the arrangements for Ms Farha’s visit, and we’re honoured to have been involved.

Ms Farha’s visit has highlighted the tireless work of so many to improve access to good housing, and it has also underscored the disparities that exist around housing in this country. As a country, we have to work together to fix this situation where a large number of people can’t put a roof over their heads or where the house they pay buckets of money for – whether as rent or a mortgage – is substandard in some way, or unsafe, or simply unaffordable.

Above all, the UN visit was a call to action: we need to step up.


This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

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