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Source: Human Rights Commission

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, will begin her 10-day investigation into whether housing is being enjoyed as a human right in New Zealand on 10 February.

The Special Rapporteur said that over the course of her visit she looks foward to exploring with key stakeholders “the challenges and opportunities New Zealand is facing in realizing and protecting the human right to adequate housing”.  

While the Special Rapporteur is in New Zealand she will meet with government, NZ Human Rights Commission and similar independent bodies, civil society organisations, NGOs, human rights experts and affected individuals, along with visits to community housing services.

“I am looking forward to sharing with the Government and other actors’ constructive examples of how the right to housing is effectively being implemented in other jurisdictions through legislation and national rights-based housing strategies,” the expert said.

At the end of her visit she will produce a summary of her findings and recommendations and present them at a press conference in Wellington on 19 Febrary. Her full report will be provided at a later date.

She will be investigating issues of housing affordability, as well as challenges “related to security of tenure and to access to justice and remedies for violations of the right to housing” with particular attention given to Māori, people of Pacific descent, persons with disabilities, children and women, refugees, migrants and homeless people.

Her visit is being organised by Government, and her investigation is independent from the Human Rights Commission. Community Housing Aotearoa, Human Rights Commission, Te Matapihi and others have helped to develop the schedule for Ms Farha’s visit.

There are several opportunities for civil society organisations to engage with her over the course of her visit from the 10th to 19th of February, and for media to attend her end of mission press conference. Also included in the current itinerary are a small number of RSVP events including a film screening in Wellington on 11 February, and an in-depth seminar on Housing Finance and Wellbeing in Auckland on the 13th of February.

Ms Farha is the first of three UN independent human rights experts who are being hosted by the Government over the next two months. The other two experts will look at the rights of older people and the right to mental and physical health.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, writing in The Spinoff provides background to their visits: “As they’re only here for 10 days, they can’t tell us how to make universal human rights a reality in the everyday lives of all New Zealanders. We must figure that out for ourselves in the rich complexity of our unique, extraordinary society founded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. But if we’re willing, our visitors can give us a helping hand.”

The Chief Commissioner adds, “New Zealand’s housing crisis is also a human rights crisis. The visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, is an opportunity for outside scrutiny of our human rights record. My hope is that her visit will help to provide a pathway towards fulfilling the right to a decent home for all New Zealanders.With advice from Ms Farha, Canada has introduced a new housing strategy explicitly based on human rights. It’s time for New Zealand to follow Canada’s example.”

If you would like to attend any of the civil society events, please confirm your interest by emailing [email protected].

If you are a member of the media and would like to attend the end of mission press conference, please confirm your interest by emailing [email protected].

Wellington

10 -12 February:From 10 – 12 February Ms Farha will be in Wellington. Morning sessions involve engagement with Government. On Monday afternoon Ms Farha’s key engagements include a series of meetings with various Commissioners and independent Crown entities.

11 February: A public event with a screening of award winning documentary The Push featuring the work of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing around the globe on the issue of financialization of housing (Director: Fredrik Gertten) will be hosted at a Victoria University Wellington Lecture Hall at 7pm. Ms Farha will introduce the film, with hosted Q and A. The event is free.  Please contact [email protected] to ensure a seat.

12 February: Wednesday afternoon includes a series of meetings on tenancy rights issues, and human rights in New Zealand broadly. This programme will also include a briefing on current housing related research.

Auckland

13 February: A seminar on Housing Finance and Wellbeing will be hosted at the University of Auckland Lecture Hall (room tbc) from 3pm. The seminar will surface the connection between housing finance and wellbeing, in the context of growing recognition of the risks in the use of housing as a financial tool rather than as a home. It will help focus on the choices we have financing our housing stock to ensure wellbeing. The event is free. For more information on this event please contact [email protected] to ensure a seat.

14 February: Community, family and housing advocates will have a chance to speak with Ms Farha about their work and their concerns in the context of human rights in this Auckland civil society session. The event will run from3:30 to 5:30 pm (location TBC)Places are limited. Please contact [email protected] to express your interest.

Kaitaia

15 February: Site visit to Kaitaia focused on meeting individuals and families facing housing risks and risks to their rights to housing.

Christchurch

17 February: Ms Farha is engaging a significant series of site visits in Christchurch. This will include a meeting with civil society/service organisations – places are limited. Please contact [email protected] to express your interest.

Wellington

19 February: The Special Rapporteur will present her findings in Wellington at end of mission press conference that is open to media. The press conference will be at UNICEF New Zealand, Level 1, PSA House, 11 Aurora Terrace, Wellington, 6011. Please confirm your interest in attending by emailing [email protected].

Ms Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housinga s a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She took up her mandate in June 2014. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada without Poverty, based in Ottawa. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups and on the situation of people living in poverty. Her most recent report to the Human Rights Council focusses on access to justice for the right to housing.

MIL OSI