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Housing discrimination and spatial segregation


Published
14 October 2021 and 4 March 2022
Issued by:
The Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal
Presented:
To the 76th session of the General Assembly in 2021 and to the 49th session of the Human Rights Council
Link:
A/HRC/49/48 (Report on Spatial Segregation – Advance Unedited Version) | Summary
A/76/408 | (Report on Housing Discrimination) | Summary

Summary

Housing discrimination and spatial segregationThe two interrelated reports presented to the General Assembly and to the Human Rights Council draw attention to the fact that spatial segregation and discrimination in housing continues to be one of the most pervasive and persistent barriers to the fulfillment of the right to adequate housing. Spatial segregation can be understood as the imposed or preferred separation of groups of people in a particular territory along the lines of race, caste, ethnicity, language, religion, disability, income or other status and is almost always characterized by economic and social exclusion, and inequality in accessing infrastructure, services and livelihood opportunities. Housing discrimination and spatial segregation are a global problem, affecting many groups and all elements of the right to adequate housing.

Drivers of spatial segregation can be land use planning, discriminatory zoning, erecting of physical barriers and gated communities, forced evictions and displacement, social and public housing policies and the criminalization and stigmatization of minority groups.

Housing discrimination can as well take the form of unequal or discriminatory access to mortgages and credit, discrimination in relation to habitability and inheritance of housing, unequal security or tenure or unequal legal protection against evictions. Spatial segregation and housing discrimination frequently extend to unequal access to public services, such as water and sanitation, energy, public transport and others. Furthermore, there continues to be strong correlation between spatial segregation, housing discrimination, environmental health and physical security, access to employment, schooling, and health care.

Women, children, older persons, persons with disability, religious, racial and ethnic groups and minorities, migrants, IDPs, refugees, indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ+ persons, persons living in situation of homelessness, in informal settlements, or in poverty are particularly affected by discrimination in relation to the right to adequate housing.

Both reports set out the human rights obligations of States, public authorities, regional and local Governments, public and private housing providers to reduce spatial segregation and ensure non-discrimination in housing. They provide an overview how public authorities can work towards elimination of spatial segregation and housing discrimination, for example through regulation and anti-discrimination legislation, and ensure that victims of housing discrimination have access to justice and remedies through judicial and non-judicial mechanisms.

Key Recommendations

States, regional, local and other public authorities, public and private housing providers should as apropriate:

  • Refrain from actively pursuing segregationist policies and practices, resulting in the violation of the right to adequate housing and the prohibition of discrimination, which may under certain circumstances amount to the crime of apartheid under international law.
  • Adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation covering all protected groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ persons, migrants, IDPs and refugees, foreigners, racial, ethnic, religious groups and minorities, persons living in situation of homelessness and in informal settlements prohibiting any form of discrimination in relation to the right to adequate housing by all public and private entities, including public and private housing and credit providers.
  • Review existing housing, tenant, land, building, town planning, zoning, banking, population registration, and social legislation and related regulations to ensure that they prevent and prohibit spatial segregation and discrimination in relation to the right to adequate housing.
  • Establish accessible and sufficiently resourced non-judicial mechanisms (equality bodies, ombudspersons, NHRIs, housing rights advocates) at local, regional and national level, that have the competence to investigate individual and collective complaints of housing discrimination, including systemic forms of housing discrimination, monitor discrimination in relation to housing through statistical analysis, surveys and other means, make recommendations for eliminating housing discrimination and provide legal advice and effective remedies to victims of housing discrimination.
  • Collect and publish regularly data on spatial segregation and housing discrimination, disaggregated by age, gender, income, race, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, minority, IDP, refugee and residence status, sexual orientation, location, housing status (homeless, informal, formal, tenant, homeowner) and any other relevant group membership to monitor discrimination in relation to housing, covering habitability, affordability and accessibility of housing and services, security of tenure and access to justice and remedies.
  • Reduce the spatial segregation of asylum-seekers, refugees, migrants, persons experiencing homelessness, older persons, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups in institutional settings through the provision of individual and decentralized housing with ambulant social and health services when necessary.
  • Advance policies and measures in urban and land use planning that explicitly address spatial segregation such as inclusionary zoning, land banks and housing voucher programmes for affordable and social housing.
  • Establish sufficient compensation and reparation schemes for victims of discrimination in housing, especially those who belong to historically marginalized groups.
  • Ensure that housing and anti-discrimination legislation provides sufficiently dissuasive fines and sanctions for housing discrimination by public authorities and private entities, including public and private housing providers.
  • Undertake awareness raising campaigns for the general public, to ensure greater awareness of non-discrimination in the provision of housing and related services, especially focusing on groups at elevated risk of housing discrimination which have been historically marginalized.

Read the report on housing discrimination and spatial segregation with their recommendations.

Related Event

The Permanent Missions of Brazil, Finland, Germany and Namibia to the United Nations in Geneva and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur are co-hosting a virtual side event during the 49th session of the Human Rights Council on

Racism, racial discrimination and other related intolerances
18 March 2022, 14:00 CET

More information and meeting link.

Methodology

To inform his reports the Special Rapporteur issued a questionnaire and held a series of consultations. The questionnaire, summaries of the consultations and submissions received a published below.

Questionaire: العربية | English | Français | Español

Consultations

Consultation with Local and Regional Governments
14 May 2021 at 15:00 CEST
Registration

Access to Justice for Housing Discrimination and Spatial Segregation
Consultation with judges, lawyers, human rights institutions and non-discrimination bodies
7 May 2021, 15:00 CEST (Geneva)
Registration

Consultation with States, relevant ministries, public institutions and international organizations
30 April 2021, 15:00 CEST (Geneva)

Consultation with CSOs: Housing discrimination and spatial segregation
12 April 2020: 15:00 CET
Registration

Inputs received

States

Local and regional Governments

National Human Rights Institutions and Ombudspersons

Civil Society Organizations

Academia and Lawyers

International Organizations and United Nations Entities


Inputs received

States

Local and regional Governments

National Human Rights Institutions and Ombudspersons

Civil Society Organizations

Academia and Lawyers

International Organizations and United Nations Entities