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Housing Rights

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Housing is a human right

Human rights are the rights that apply to every single person in the world.  

Originally, human rights were defined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was adopted in 1948.

In 1950, the European Convention on Human Rights. This protects the rights of people who belong to the Council of Europe, which includes the UK.

The UK established the Human Rights Act 1998, which meant that human rights cases could be heard in UK courts, that public bodies in the UK must comply with human rights at all times and that new laws uphold human rights. 

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) explain the binding commitments that countries have agreed to comply with. 

The Right to Adequate Housing

The ICESCR, defines:

“The right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.” (Article 11)

“Adequate” housing is defined, by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in the following way:

  • Legal security of tenure: Adequate housing must guarantee specific legal protection, such as protection against harassment, forced eviction and other possible threats.
  • Availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure: Adequate housing has to provide the occupants with ‘sustainable access to natural and common resources, safe drinking water, energy for cooking, heating and lighting, sanitation and washing facilities, means of food storage, refuse disposal, site drainage and emergency services.’
  • Affordability: Adequate housing must be affordable, so that the housing costs do not threaten or compromise the satisfaction and attainment of non housing basic needs. State parties should provide housing subsidies to ensure that those who cannot otherwise afford adequate housing are able to do so and that tenants are ‘protected by appropriate means against unreasonable rent levels.’
  • Habitability: Adequate housing must have adequate space and protect its occupants from heat, cold, rain, damp, wind and other safety and health hazards.
  • Accessibility: Adequate housing must be accessible to its occupants. This entails making necessary changes to housing depending on the occupants’ physical and mental health.
  • Location: Adequate housing must be in a location that is not polluted and allows access to health care, childcare, schools, employment options and other possible social facilities.
  • Cultural adequacy: The construction methods, materials used and relevant policies must reasonably enable cultural identity expression. This, for example, means that the UK and Scottish Governments have a responsibility to ensure that culturally adequate accommodation is available to Travellers, including transit accommodation.

The Homesleness etc, (Scotland) Act 2003), gave the right to everyone assessed as being unintentionally homeless the right to accommodation. 

If, therefore, you feel you are being discriminated against in relation to access to housing, references to both the Homesleness etc, (Scotland) Act 2003) and the ICESCR.

Shelter Scotland has produced a comprehensive document addressing the topic and are able to provide support in individual cases.

A table with examples of appropriate language use

SHORE Standards

The Scottish Prison Service, in partnership with Scottish Government, charities and Local Authority criminal justice departments, developed a set of standards called: Sustainable Housing on Release for Everyone.

These standards are intended to make sure everyone has “suitable accommodation to go to on the day they are released from custody.”  

The standards describe what the various services “should” be doing to support people at the following points:

  • On imprisonment
  • During sentence
  • Prior to release
  • Following release

The standards are not mandatory but they do describe “best practice”.  You may find it useful to refer to the standards if you feel that you or your loved ones are not receiving the level of support you would expect.

A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024
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