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Housing as a Human Right

BEV economist Tom Keily was in conversation recently with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at Renew Fest in Mullumbimby Their conversation focused primarily on housing as a human right.

Housing in Australia is increasingly being spoken about these days as a human right. It’s been considered a human rights issue deserving of attention in developing countries for decades. And it’s now seriously affecting societies in developed countries like Australia.

Housing may be a human right but there are currently over 100,000 people in Australia who don’t have a permanent place to call home. And for Australian tenants who do have a rental home, the vast majority are paying more than a third of their weekly income in rent, according to a Rent.com.au Rental Affordability Survey. In fact 30% are paying more than half of their weekly income on rent.

Human rights are basic freedoms & protections based on dignity, equality and mutual respect. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. We need appropriate housing to be able to survive with dignity. When adequate housing is missing other basic aspects of our lives get compromised, including health, wellbeing and employment.

In Australia education and healthcare are considered basic human rights and so there are systems in place that provide both to the masses.

Senator Rhiannon in her Universal Housing for Australia paper says “We recognise education is a human right. We’d do what it took to protect the right to education”. She states that “we need the same transformative thinking which established […] Medicare in Australia. We need the big thinking that drove the first free, universally accessible public schools”.

So what big thinking can drive such needed change?

On a national level Senator Rhiannon is proposing a campaign that will give universal access to housing for all. Medicare and Social Security are examples of successful universal programs at work in Australia.

What about on a grassroots level?

There are lots of exciting, new and different things happening internationally and here in Australia, one of them being Community Land Trusts. A community land trust (CLT) is a non-profit, community-based organisation that provides affordable homes on a continuous basis by acquiring land and removing it from the real estate market. In essence a CLT creates a ‘speculation-free zone’ that can’t be bought and sold in the open market.

We can dream up different ways to ‘own’ our homes so that we have ‘ownership’ of our place without having to pay an enormous mortgage to buy it. Our BEV Alternative Ownership Model is one such solution that utilises long-term leases and therefore lifelong tenancy opportunities.

These are just some examples of disrupting the property economy. There can be many more.

Our house is more than a roof over our head. It’s our home, our sanctuary, the place we go to get away from it all and nourish our relationships with our nearest and dearest. And everyone deserves that simple privilege.

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