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UK: More than 11,000 people join call for housing to be made a human right

© Amnesty International UK/Graeme Weston

Government policies are causing thousands of people to be denied housing

Amnesty is calling for destructive, subjective criteria to be scrapped

'Housing is a human right, not a luxury and it needs to be protected in law’ - Sacha Deshmukh

More than 11,000 people have joined Amnesty International UK’s call on the Government to make access to safe and affordable housing a human right for all in England - with this right enshrined in law - in a petition that Amnesty has handed into Michael Gove at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities today.

Campaigners carried a giant, house-shaped placard declaring “housing is a human right” as they delivered the petition signatures earlier today.

Specific Government policies are responsible for causing thousands of people across the country to be denied housing, according to research by Amnesty. Overly stringent entitlement criteria set by local authorities to ration access as a result of severe shortfalls in adequate, affordable housing are at the heart of a systemic problem, Amnesty said.

Under the current system, regardless of people’s actual need local authorities do not have a duty to provide housing to people who fall into one of the following three groups: people subject to immigration restrictions with no recourse to public funds (a status that not only makes it impossible for people to be considered for housing but also makes it impossible for them to gain the funds needed in order to get housing) as well as people who are not recognised as being in a “priority need” group for housing or those deemed to be “intentionally” homeless – Amnesty is calling for these last two highly subjective criteria to be scrapped.

Each of these categories violates the UK’s international human rights obligations, which recognise homelessness as a denial of the rights to adequate housing and non-discrimination. It is often also a violation to the rights to life, to security of the person, to health, to protection of the home and family, and to freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment.

According to the Government’s own statistics, more than 270,000 people are currently facing homelessness in England.

Cost of living crisis

With inflation and the overall cost-of-living recently increasing markedly in the UK, Amnesty commissioned new polling data conducted by Savanta ComRes, which revealed that 32% of UK adults (almost one in three) said they were concerned about experiencing homelessness - either sofa-surfing or in temporary accommodation - in the next five years as a result of housing costs, and 42% (more than two in five) said they were concerned that someone whom they knew would face this predicament. 

Lack of affordable housing stock in England is central to the country’s homelessness crisis. Following 50 backbench Conservative MPs signing an amendment yesterday to scrap mandatory local housing targets for councils, Amnesty has repeated its calls to build more social housing urgently and remove the barriers that have been put in place which deny people their right to housing.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“The Government’s broken housing system has not been fit for purpose for decades.

“Attempts by local authorities to ration a severe shortfall in decent, affordable housing are shutting people out of the system and leaving them destitute, often at great risk to their mental and physical health and personal safety.

“Unless housing is rightfully recognised as a legal human right in England, there is no way to hold the Government to account for its devastating failings.

“Housing is a human right, not a luxury and it needs to be protected in law.”


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