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Call for human rights at the heart of housing policy

New report released on Scottish Housing Day says housing must be a human right.

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Housing must be a human right, according to a new report published to mark Scottish Housing Day.

The report, published jointly by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Shelter Scotland, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO), the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) and the Tenant Participatory Advisory Service Scotland (TPAS), calls for the incorporation of human rights legislation in Scotland so everyone has access to a safe, affordable home.

The report notes that legislating for human rights in domestic legislation could provide citizens with a means to challenge councils, landlords and the government if they violate a minimum set of rights and argues that such incorporation would mean that service providers better reflect human rights in their policy deliberations.

Specifically, the report calls for improving the consistency in what people experience across different types of housing tenures, whether that be social rent, private rent or home ownership and notes that that, while improvements in availability, affordability and accessibility are needed across all sectors, many housing problems can be linked to the shortage of affordable homes. 

To discuss the findings of the report and the case for housing as a human right, there will be a discussion at the Scottish Parliament with Callum Chomczuk from CIH Scotland, Heather Ford from West Cromwell, Citadel and Persevere Courts Residents Association (WPCRA) and the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Communities, Aileen Campbell MSP.

The day will end with an evening event at the Wheatley Academy in Glasgow featuring a panel discussion with Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations Sally Thomas, Convenor of the Scottish Youth Parliament's Social Security Committee Ryan Kelly MSYP, and Co-chair of the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership Professor Alan Miller.

Other activities on the day include a drop-in event at Barrhead Housing Association between 2pm and 4pm, a coffee morning for East Lothian Council tenants, and a drive by Dundee Federation of Tenants Associations to encourage tenants to arrange access for their new fire safety systems and gas servicing.

Callum Chomczuk, CIH Scotland’s National Director and Chair of the Scottish Housing working group, said: “Housing is a human right, so I am pleased that we are using the celebrations as part of Scottish Housing Day to make the case for greater consistency in what people experience and to highlight the need to ensure that we are building more of the right homes, in the right places.

“Legislation will be only the first step and educating the public and judiciary about the value of this approach will take time. However, we know from experience in Scotland, and in other countries, how a rights-based approach to housing can improve the experiences of tenants, customers and homeowners.”

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said: “Housing is embedded in so much that we want to achieve, including eradicating poverty and homelessness, tackling the effects of climate change and promoting inclusive growth. 

“Now is the time for us to come together to shape a resilient housing system which addresses these challenges. In July, we published a draft vision for our homes and communities in 2040, and the supporting principles, including the right to an adequate home. Over the coming months, we will gather a wide range of views on how to make this a reality.

“Scottish Housing Day is a great way for people to engage with that discussion and help us shape our collective vision for Housing to 2040 and beyond.”

Sally Thomas, SFHA Chief Executive, said: “Housing is a human right, but there is still work to do for that right to be realised in Scotland to make sure that everyone has access to a safe, secure and affordable home.

“Availability continues to be an issue – there remains a significant demand for affordable housing, with approximately 130,000 households on social housing waiting lists. But we also need to look beyond numerical targets and ensure Scotland’s homes are fit for people’s needs and in the right places – both now and in the future.

“We must ensure housing is affordable. Cuts and changes to social security, and stagnant wages, have left many households struggling to pay their bills.  

“Ongoing Scottish Government investment in our sector is vital for its future, and our members urgently need to know what the Government’s plans are for housing post-2021.”

Scottish Housing Day is taking place today (18 Wednesday September).

The day is organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Homes for Scotland, Shelter Scotland, the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO), the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), the Tenant Participatory Advisory Service Scotland (TPAS), Regional Network of Registered Tenants Organisations and the Scottish Government.

Its purpose is to raise public awareness of the latest developments in housing and to give people the resources that they need to make informed decisions about their housing options.

You can find out more about Scottish Housing Day here, or you can follow developments on Twitter @scothousingday by using the hashtag #ScottishHousingDay.